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BOOK 89 1.783.T588R Y c. 1 
TOLSTOI # RUSSIAN REVOLUTION 



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The Russian 
Revolution 



BY 

LEO TOLSTOY. 



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The Russian 
Revolution 



BY 



Leo Tolstoy. 



I. The Meaning of the Russian Revolution. 

Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude. 
2. What's to be done ? Translated by Aylmer Maude. 

3. An Appeal to Russians. 

Translated by Aylmer Maude* 

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Letter from Leo Tolstoy 

TO 

THE FREE AGE PRESS. 



Dear Friends, 

I have received the first issues of your books, booklets and 
leaflets containing my writings, as well as the statements con- 
cerning the objects and plan of " The Free Age Press." 

The publications are extremely neat and attractive, and — 
what to me appears most important — very cheap, and therefore 
quite accessible to the great public, consisting of the working 
classes. 

I also warmly sympathise with the announcement on your 
translations that no rights are reserved. Being well aware of all 
the extra sacrifices and practical difficulties that this involves for 
a publishing concern at the present day, I particularly desire to 
express my heartfelt gratitude to the translators and participators 
in your work, who, in generous compliance with my objection to 
copyright of any kind, thus help to render your English version of 
my writings absolutely free to all who may wish to make use of it. 

Should I write anything more which I may consider worthy 
of publication, I will with great pleasure forward it to you without 
delay. 

With heartiest wishes for the further success of your efforts. 

LEO TOLSTOY. 

Moscow, 

2^tk December^ 1900. 



The Meaning of the Russian 
Revolution. 



" We live in glorious times. . . Was there ever so much to do ? Our 
age is a revolutionary one in the best sense of the word— not of physical but 
moral revolution. Higher ideas of the social state, and of human perfection, 
are at work. I shall not live to see the harvest, but to sow in faith is no 
mean privilege or happiness." — W. E. Channing. 



" For the worshippers of utility there is no morality except the morality of 
profit, and no religion but the religion of material welfare. They found the 
body of man crippled and exhausted by want, and in their ill-considered zeal 
they said : ' Let us cure this body ; and when it is strong, plump, and well 
nourished, its soul will return to it.' But I say that that body can only be 
cured when its soul has been cured. In it lies the root of the disease, and the 
bodily ailments are but the outward signs of that disease. Humanity 
to-day is dying for lack of a common faith : a common idea uniting earth to 
heaven, the universe to God. 

" From the absence of this spiritual religion, of which but empty forms and 
lifeless formularies remain, and from a total lack of a sense of duty and a 
capacity for self-sacrifice, man, like a savage, has fallen prostrate in the dust, 
and has set up on an empty altar the idol ' utility.' Despots and the Princes 
of this world have become his High Priests ; and from them has come the 
revolting formulary : ' Each for his own alone ; each for himself alone.' " 
— Mazzini. 

" When He saw the multitude, He was moved with compassion for them, 
because they were distressed and scattered, as sheep not having a shepherd.', 
—Matt, ix, 36. 

A Revolution is taking place in Russia, and all the world is 
following it with eager attention, guessing and trying to foresee 
whither it is tending, and to what it will bring the Russian people. 

To guess at and to foresee this, may be interesting and important 
to outside spectators watching the Russian Revolution, but for us 
Russians, who are living in this Revolution and making it, the 
chief interest lies not in guessing what is going to happen, but in 



2 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

defining as clearly and firmly as possible what we must do in these 
immensely important, terrible, and dangerous times in which we 
live. 

Every Revolution is a change of a people's relation towards 
Power."^ 

Such a change is now taking place in Russia, and we, the 
whole Russian people, are accomplishing it. 

Therefore to know how we can and should change our relation 
towards Power, we must understand the nature of Power : what it 
consists of, how it arose, and how best to treat it 



Always and among all nations the same thing has occurred. 
Among people occupied with the necessary work natural to all 
men, of providing food for themselves and their families, by the 
chase (hunting animals), or as herdsmen (nomads), or by agri- 
culture, there appeared men of their own or another nation, who 
forcibly seized the fruit of the workers' toil f first robbing, then 
enslaving them, and exacting from them either labour or tribute, 
This used to happen in old times, and still happens in Africa and 
Asia. And always and everywhere the workers (occupied with 
their accustomed, unavoidably necessary, and unremitting task 
(their struggle with nature to feed themselves and rear their 
children) though by far more numerous and always more moral 
than their conquerors, submitted to them and fulfilled their 
demands. 

They submitted because it is natural to all men (and especially 
to those engaged in a serious struggle with nature to support 
themselves and their families) to dislike strife with other men ; and 

* The word Power occurs very frequently in this aiticle, and is, as it were, 
a pivot on which it turns. We have been tempted in different places to 
translate it (the Russian word is vlast) by "government," "authorities,'' "force" 
or " violence " according to the context. But the unity of the article is better 
maintained by letting a single English word represent the one Russian word, 
and we have followed this principle as far as possible, (Zr^x/zj.) 



THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 3 

feeling this aversion, they preferred to endure the consequences 
of the violence put upon them, rather than to give up their 
necessary, customary, and beloved labour. 

There were, certainly, none of those contracts whereby Hugo 
Grotius and Rousseau explain the relations between the subdued 
and their subduers. Neither was there, nor could there be, any 
agreement as to the best way of arranging social life, such as 
Herbert Spencer imagines in his " Principles of Sociology " ; but 
it happened in the most natural way, that when one set of men 
did violence to another set, the latter preferred to endure not 
merely many hardships, but often even great distress, rather than 
face the cares and efforts necessary to withstand their oppressors ; 
more especially as the conquerors took on themselves the duty of 
protecting the conquered people against internal and external dis- 
turbers of the peace. And so the majority of men, occupied with 
the business necessary to all men and to all animals (that of 
feeding themselves and their families) not only endured the 
unavoidable inconveniences and hardships, and even the cruelty, of 
their oppressors, without fighting, but submitted to them and 
accepted it as a duty to fulfil all their demands. 

When speaking about the formation of primitive communities 
the fact is always forgotten, that not only the most numerous and 
most needed, but also the most moral, members of society were 
always those who by their labour keep all the rest alive ; and that 
to such people it is always more natural to submit to violence and 
to bear all the hardships it involves, than to give up the 
necessaiy work of supporting themselves and their families In 
order to fight against oppression. It is so now, when we see the 
people of Burmah, the Fellahs of Egypt, and the Boers, surrender- 
ing to the English, and the Bedouins to the French ; and in olden 
tim^es it was even more so. 

Latterly, in the curious and widely diffused teaching called the 
Science of Sociology, it has been asserted that the relations 
between the members of human society have been, and are, depen- 
dent on economic conditions, But to assert this is merely to 



4 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

substitute for the clear and evident cause of a phenomenon one of 
its effects. The cause of this or that economic condition always 
was (and could not but be) the oppression of some men by others. 
Economic conditions are a result of violence, and cannot therefore 
be the cause of human relations. Evil men — the Cains — who 
loved idleness and were covetous, always attacked good men — the 
Abels — the tillers of the soil, and by killing them or threatening 
to kill them, profited by their toil. The good, gentle, and 
industrious people, instead of fighting their oppressors, considered 
it best to submit : partly because they did not wish to fight, and 
partly because they could not do so without interrupting their 
work of feeding themselves and their neighbours. On this 
oppression of the good by the evil, and not on any economic 
conditions, all existinc^ human societies have been, and still are, 
based and built. 



II. 

From the most ancient times, and among all the nations of the 
earth, the relations of the rulers to the ruled have been based on 
violence. But this relation, like everything else in the world, was 
and is continually changing. It changes from two causes. First 
because the more secure their power becomes and the longer it 
lasts, the more do those in power (the leisured classes who have 
power) grow depraved, unreasonable and cruel, and the more 
injurious to their subjects do their demands become. Secondly, 
because as those in power grow more depraved, their subjects see 
more and more clearly the harm and folly of submitting to such 
depraved power. 

And those in power always become depraved : firstly, because 
such people, immoral by nature, and preferring idleness and 
violence to work, having grasped power and used it to satisfy 
their lusts and passions, give themselves up more and more to 
these passions and vices; and secondly, because lusts and passions, 



tHE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 5 

which in the case of ordinary men cannot be gratified without 
meeting with obstacles, not only do not meet such obstacles and 
do not arouse any condemnation in the case of those who rule, 
but on the contrary are applauded by all who surround them. 
The latter generally benefit by the madness of their masters ; and 
besides, it pleases them to imagine that the virtues and 
wisdom to which alone 'it is natural for reasonable men to submit 
are to be found in the men to whom they submit ; and therefore, 
the vices of those in power are lauded as if they were virtues, and 
grow to terrible proportions. 

Consequently the folly and vice of the crowned and uncrowned 
rulers of the nations have reached such appalling dimensions as 
were reached by the Neros, Charleses, Henrys, Louis, Johns, 
Peters, Catherines, and Marats. 

Nor is this all. If the rulers were satisfied with their personal 
debauchery and vices they would not do so much harm ; but idle, 
satiated, and depraved men, such as rulers were and are, must have 
something to live for — must have some aims and try to attain them. 
And such men can have no aim except to get more and more 
fame. All other passions soon reach the limits of satiety. Only 
ambition has no limits, and therefore almost all potentates always 
strove and strive after fame, especially military fame, the only 
kind attainable by depraved men unacquainted with, and incapable 
of, real work. For the wars devised by the potentates, money, 
armies and, above all, the slaughter of men, are necessary ; and in 
consequence of this the condition of the ruled becomes harder and 
harder, and at last the oppression reaches a point at which the 
ruled can no longer continue to submit to the ruling power, but 
must try to alter their relation towards it. 



III. 

■ Such is one reason of alteration in the relations between the 
rolers and the ruled. Another still more important reason of 



6 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

this change is that the ruled — believing in the rights of the power 
above them and accustomed to submit to it — ^as knowledge spreads 
and their moral consciousness becomes enlightened, begin to see 
and feel not only the ever increasing material harmfulness of this 
rule, but also that to submit to such power is becoming immoral. 

It was possible five hundred or a thousand years ago for people, 
in obedience to their rulers, to slaughter whole nations for the sake 
of conquest, or for dynastic or religio-fantastic aims to behead, 
torture, quarter, encage, destroy and enslave whole nations. But 
in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, subjugated people, en- 
lightened by Christianity or by the humanitarian teachings which 
have grown up out of it, can no longer without pangs of conscience 
submit to the powers which demand that they should participate in 
the slaughter of men defending their freedom (as was done in 
the Chinese, Boer, and Philippine wars) and can no longer with 
quiet consciences, as formerly, know themselves to be participators 
in the deeds of violence and the executions which are being 
committed by the Governments of their countries. 

So that force-using power destroys itself in two ways. 

It destroys itself through the ever-growing depravity of those in 
authority, and the consequent continually-increasing burden borne 
by the ruled ; and through its ever-increasing deviation from the 
ever developing moral perception of the ruled. Therefore, where 
force-using power exists, a moment must inevitably come when 
the relation of the people towards that power must change. This 
moment may come sooner or later according to the degree and the 
rapidity of the corruption of the rulers, to the amount of their 
cunning, to the quieter or more restless temperament of the people, 
and even from their geographical position helping or hindering the 
intercourse of the people among themselves ; but sooner or later 
that moment must inevitably come to all nations. 

To the Western nations, which arose on the ruins of the Roman 
Empire, that moment came long ago. The struggle of people 
against Government began even in Rome ; continued in all the 
States that succeeded Rome, and still goes on. To the Eastern 



THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. ^ 

nations : Turkey, Persia, India, China, that moment has not yet 
arrived. For the Russian people, it has now come. 

The Russian people are to-day confronted by the dreadful choice 
of either, like the Eastern nations, continuing to submit to their 
unreasonable and depraved Government in spite of all the misery 
it has inflicted upon them ; or, as all the Western nations have done, 
realising the evil of the existing Government, upsetting it by 
force, and establishing a new one. 

Such a choice seems quite natural to the non-labouring classes 
of Russia, who are in touch with the upper and prosperous classes 
of the Western nations and consider the military might, the 
industrial, commercial and technical improvements, and that 
external glitter to which the Western nations have attained under 
their altered Governments, to be a great good. 



IV. 

The majority of the Russian non-labouring classes are quite 
convinced that the Russian people at this crisis can do nothing 
better than follow the path the Western nations have trodden and 
are still treading : that is to say, fight the power, limit it, and 
place it more and more in the hands of the whole people. 

Is this opinion right, and is such action good ? 

Have the Western nations, travelling for centuries along that 
path, attained what they strove for ? Have they freed themselves 
from the evils they wished to be rid of? 

The Western nations, like all others, began by submitting to 
the power which demanded their submission : choosing to submit 
rather than to fight. But that power, in the persons of the 
Charleses (the Great and the Fifth) the Philips, Louis, and Henry 
the Eighths, becoming more and more depraved, reached such a 
condition that the Western nations could no longer endure it^ 
The Western nations, at different times, revolted against their 
rulers and fought them. This struggle took place in different 



8 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

forms, at different periods, but always found expression in the same 
ways : in civil wars, robberies, murders, executions, and finished 
with the fall of the old power and the accession of a new one. 
And when the new power became as oppressive to the people as 
that which had been overthrown, it too was upset, and another new 
one was put in its place, which by the same unalterable nature of 
power, became in due course as harmful as its predecessors. Thus, 
for instance, in France there were eleven changes of power within 
eighty years : the Bourbons, the Convention, the Directory, 
Bonaparte, the Empire, again the Bourbons, a Republic, Louis 
Philippe, again a Republic, again a Bonaparte, and again a 
Republic. The substitution of new powers for old ones took place 
among other nations too, though not so rapidly as in France. 
These changes in most cases did not improve the condition of the 
people, and therefore those who made these changes could not help 
coming to the conclusion that the misery they suffered did not so 
much depend on the nature of the persons in power as on the fact 
that a few persons exercised power over many. And therefore 
the people tried to render the power harmless by limiting it. And 
such limitation was introduced in several countries in the form of 
elected Chambers of Representatives. 

But the men who limited the arbitrariness of the rulers and 
found the Assemblies, becoming themselves possessors of 
power, naturally succumbed to the depraving influence which 
accompanies power, and to which the autocratic rulers had suc- 
cumbed. These men, becoming sharers in power even though not 
singly, perpetrated, jointly or separately, the same kind of evil, and 
became as great a burden on the people as the autocratic rulers 
had been. Then, to limit the arbitrariness of power still more, 
monarchical power was abolished altogether in some countries, and 
a Government was established chosen by the whole people. 
In this way Republics were instituted in France, America and 
Switzerland ; and the Referendum and the Initiative were intro- 
duced, giving every member of the community the possibility of 
interfering and participating in legislation. 



THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 9 

But the only effect of all these measures was that the citizens 
of these States, participating more and more in power, and being 
more and more diverted from serious occupations, grew more and 
more depraved. The calamities from which the people suffered 
remain, however, exactly the same under Constitutional, Mon- 
archical, or Republican Governments, with or without Referen- 
dums. 

Nor could it be otherwise, for the idea of limiting power by the 
participation in power of all who are subject to it is unsound 
at its very core, and self-contradictory. 

If one man with the aid of his helpers rules over all, it is un- 
just, and in all likelihood such rule will be harmful to the people. 

The same will be the case when the minority rules over the 
majority. But the power of the majority over the minority also 
fails to secure a just rule ; for we have no reason to believe that 
the majority participating in government is wiser than the minority 
that avoids participation. 

To extend the participation in government to all, as might be 
done by still greater extension of the Referendum and the 
Initiative, would only mean that everybody would be fighting 
everybody else. 

That man should have over his fellows a power founded on 
violence, is evil at its source ; and no kind of arrangement that 
maintains the right of man to do violence to man, can cause evil to 
cease to be evil. 

Therefore, among all nations, however they are ruled, whether 
by the most despotic or most democratic Governments, the chief 
and fundamental calamities from which the people suffer, remain 
the same : the same ever-increasing, enormous budgets, the 
same animosity towards their neighbours, necessitating military 
preparations and armies ; the same taxes ; the same State and 
private monopolies ; the same depriving the people of the right to 
use the land (which is given to private owners) ; the same 
enslaving of subject races ; the same constant threatenings of war ; 



10 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

and the same wars, destroying the lives of men and undermining 
their morality. 



V. 

It is true that the Representative Governments of Western 
Europe and America — Constitutional Monarchies as well as 
Republics — have uprooted some of the external abuses practised 
by the representatives of power, and have made it impossible 
that the holders of power should be such monsters as were 
the different Louis, Charleses, Henrys and Johns. (Although 
in representative Government not only is it possible that power 
will be seized by cunning, immoral and artful mediocrities, such as 
various Prime Ministers and Presidents have been, but the 
construction of those Governments is such, that only that kind 
of people can obtain power.) It is true that representative 
Governments have abolished such abuses as the lettres de cachet^ 
have removed restrictions on the press, have stopped religious 
persecutions and oppressions, have submitted the taxation of the 
people to discussion by their representatives, have made the 
actions of the Government public and subject to criticism, and have 
facilitated the rapid development in those countries of all sorts 
of technical improvements giving great comfort to the life of rich 
citizens and great military power to the State. So that the 
nations which have representative government have doubtless 
become more powerful industrially, commercially and in military 
matters, than despotically governed nations, and the lives of their 
leisured classes have certainly become more secure, comfortable, 
agreeable and aesthetic than they used to be. But is the life of 
the majority of the people in those countries more secure, freer, 
or, above all, more reasonable and moral ? 

I think not. 

Under the despotic power of one man, the number of persons 
who come under the corrupting influence of power and live on the 
labour of others, is limited, and consists of the despot's close 



THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION, ii 

friends, assistants, servants and flatterers, and of their helpers. 
The infection of depravity is focussed in the Court of the despot, 
whence it radiates in all directions. 

Where power is limited, i.e. where many persons take part 
in it, the number of centres of infection is augmented, for everyone 
who shares power has his friends, helpers, servants, flatterers and 
relations. 

Where there is universal suffrage, these centres of infection are 
still more diffused. Every voter becomes the object of flattery 
and bribery. The character of the power itself is also changed. 
Instead of power founded on direct violence, we get a monetary 
power, also founded on violence, not directly, but through a 
complicated transmission. 

So that under representative Governments, instead of one or a 
few centres of depravity, we get a large number of such centres — - 
that is to say, there springs up a large class of people living idly 
on others' labour, the class called the " bourgeois," i.e. people who, 
being protected by violence, arrange for themselves easy and 
comfortable lives, free from hard work. 

But as, when arranging an easy and pleasant life not only 
for a Monarch and his Court, but for thousands of little kinglets, 
many things are needed to embellish and to amuse this idle life, 
it results that whenever power passes from a despotic to a 
representative Government, inventions appear, facilitating the 
supply of objects that add to the pleasure and safety of the lives of 
the wealthy classes. 

To produce all these objects, an ever-increasing number of 
working men are drawn away from agriculture, and have their 
capacities directed to the production of pleasing trifles used by the 
rich, or even to some extent by the workers themselves. So there 
springs up a class of town workers so situated as to be in 
complete dependence on the wealthy classes. The number of 
these people grows and grows the longer the power of representative 
Government endures, and their condition becomes worse and worse. 
In the United States, out of a population of seventy millions, ten 



12 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

millions are proletarians, and the relation between the well-to-do 
and the proletariat classes is the same in England, Belgium and 
France. The number of men exchanging the labour of 
producing objects of primary necessity for the labour of producing 
objects of luxury is ever increasing in those countries. It clearly 
follows that the result of such a trend of affairs must be the ever 
greater overburdening of that diminishing number which has to 
support the luxurious lives of the ever increasing number of idle 
people. Evidently, such a way of life cannot continue. 

What is happening is as though there were a man whose body 
went on increasing in weight while the legs that supported it grew 
continually thinner and weaker. When the support had vanished 
the body would have to fall. 



VI. 

The Western nations, like all others, submitted to the power 
of their conquerors only to avoid the worry and sin of fighting. 
But when that power bore too heavily upon them, they began to 
fight it, though still continuing to submit to power, which they 
regarded as a necessity. At first only a small part of the nation 
shared in the fight ; then, when the struggle of that small part 
proved ineffectual, an ever greater and greater number entered into 
the conflict, and it ended by the majority of the people of those 
nations (instead of freeing themselves from the worry and sin of 
fighting) sharing in the wielding of power ; the very thing they 
wished to avoid when they first submitted to power. The 
inevitable result of this was the increase of the depraving influence 
that comes of power, an increase not affecting a small number of 
persons only, as had been the case under a single ruler, but 
affecting all the members of the community. (Steps are now 
being taken to subject women also to it.) 

Representative Government and Universal Suffrage resulted in 
every possessor of a fraction of power being exposed to all the evil 



THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 13 

attached to power : bribery, flattery, vanity, self-conceit, idleness 
and, above all, immoral participation in deeds of violence. Every 
member of Parliament is exposed to all these temptations in a yet 
greater degree. Every Deputy always begins his career of power 
by befooling people, making promises he knows he will not keep ; 
and when sitting in the House he takes part in making laws that 
are enforced by violence. It is the same with all Senators and 
Presidents. Similar corruption prevails in the election of a 
President. In the United States the election of a President costs 
millions to those financiers who know that when elected he will 
maintain certain monopolies or import duties advantageous to 
them, on various articles, which will enable them to recoup the 
cost of the election a hundredfold. 

And this corruption, with all its accompanying phenomena — 
the desire to avoid hard work and to benefit by comforts and 
pleasures provided by others ; interests and cares, inaccessible to 
a man engaged in work, concerning the general business of the 
State ; the spread of a lying and inflvimmatory press ; and, above 
all, animosity between nation and nation, class and class, man and 
man — has e^rown and f^rown, till it has reached such dimensions 
that the struggle of all men against their fellows has become so 
habitual a state of things, that Science (the Science that is engaged 
in condoning all the nastiness done by men) has decided that the 
struggle and enmity of all against all is a necessary, unavoidable 
and beneficent condition of human life. 

That peace, which to the ancients who saluted each other with 
the words " Peace be unto you ! " seemed the greatest of blessings, 
has now quite disappeared from among the Western peoples ; and 
not only has it disappeared, but by the aid of science, men try to 
assure themselves that not in peace, but in the strife of all against 
all, lies man's highest destiny. 

And really, among the Western nations, an unceasing industrial, 
commercial and military strife is continually waged j a strife of 
State against State, class against class, Labour against Capital, 
party against party, man against man. 



14 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

Nor is this all. The chief result of this participation of all men 
in power is, that men being more and more drawn away from 
direct work on the land, and more and more involved in diverse 
ways of exploiting the labour of others, have lost their indepen- 
dence and are forced by the position they live in to lead immoral 
lives. Having neither the desire nor the habit of living by tilling 
their own land, the Western nations were forced to obtain their 
means of subsistence from other countries. They could do this 
only in two ways : by fraud, that is, by exchanging things for the 
most part unnecessary or depraving, such as alcohol, opium, 
weapons, for the foodstuffs indispensable to them ; or by violence, 
that is, robbing the people of Asia and Africa wherever they saw 
an opportunity of doing this with impunity, 

Such is the position of Germany^ Austria, Italy, France, the 
United States, and especially Great Britain, which is held up as an 
example for the imitation and envy of other nations. Almost all 
the people of these nations, having become conscious participators 
in deeds of violence, devote their strength and attention to the 
activities of Government, and to industry and to commerce, v/hich 
aim chiefly at satisfying the demands of the rich for luxuries ; and 
they subjugate (partly by direct force, partly by money) the 
agricultural people both of their own and of foreign countries, who 
have to provide them with the necessaries of life. 

Such people form a majority in some nations ; in others they are 
as yet only a minority ; but the percentage of men living on the 
labour of others grows uncontrollably and very rapidly, to the 
detriment of those who still do reasonable, agricultural work. So 
that a majority of the people of Western Europe are already in the 
condition (the United States are not so yet, but are being 
irresistibly drawn towards it) of not being able to subsist by their 
own labour on their own land. They are obliged in one way or 
another, by force or fraud, to take the necessaries of life from other 
people who still do their own labour. And they get these 
necessaries either by defrauding foreign nations, or by gross 
violence, 



THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 15 

From this it necessarily results that trade, aiming chiefly at 
satisfying the demands of the rich, and of the richest of the rich 
(that is, the Government) directs its chief powers, not to improving 
the means of tilling the soil, but to making it possible by the aid 
of machines to somehow till large tracts of land (of which the 
people have been deprived), to manufacturing finery for women, 
building luxurious palaces, producing sweetmeats, toys, motor-cars 
tobacco, wines, delicacies, medicines, enormous quantities of printed 
matter, guns, rifles, powder, unnecessary railways, and so forth. 

And as there is no end to the caprices of men when they are 
met not by their own labour but by that of others, industry is 
more and more diverted to the production of the most unnecessary, 
stupid, depraving products, and draws people more and more from 
reasonable work ; and no end can be foreseen to these inventions 
and preparations for the amusement of idle people, especially as 
the stupider and more depraving an invention is — such as the use 
of motors in place of animals or of one's own legs, railways to go 
up mountains, or armoured automobiles armed with quick-firing 
guns — the more pleased and proud of them are both their 
inventors and their possessors. 



VII. 

The longer representative Government lasted and the more it 
extended, the more did the Western nations abandon agriculture 
and devote their mental and physical powers to manufacturing and 
trading in order to supply luxuries to the wealthy classes, to 
enable the nations to fight one another, and to deprave the 
undepraved. Thus, in England, which has had representative 
Government longest, less than one-seventh of the adult male 
population are now employed in agriculture, in Germany 0.45 of the 
population, in France one-half, and a similar number in other States. 
So that at the present time the position of these States is such, that 
even if they could free them.selves from the calamity of proletarian- 



i6 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

ism, they could not support themselves independently of other 
countries. All these nations are unable to subsist by their own 
toil ; and, just as the proletariat are dependent on the well-to-do 
classes, so are they completely dependent on countries that 
support themselves and are able to sell them their surplus : such 
as India, Russia or Australia. England supports from its own 
land less than a fifth of its population ; and Germany less than half, 
as is the case with France and with other countries ; and the 
condition of these nations becomes year by year more dependent 
on the food supplied from abroad. 

In order to exist, these nations must have recourse to the 
deceptions and violence called in their language "acquiring 
markets " and " Colonial policy ; " and they act accordingly, 
striving to throw their nets of enslavement farther and farther to 
all ends of the earth, to catch those who are still leading rational 
lives. Vying with one another, they increase their armaments 
more and more, and more and more cunningly, under various 
pretexts, seize the land of those who still live rational lives, and 
force these people to feed them. 

Till now they have been able to do this. But the limit to the 
acquirement of markets, to the deception of buyers, to the sale of 
unnecessary and injurious articles, and to the enslavement of 
distant nations, is already apparent. The peoples of distant 
lands are themselves becoming depraved : are learning to make 
for themselves all those articles which the Western nations 
supplied them with, and are, above all, learning the not very 
cunning science of arming themselves, and of being as cruel as 
their teachers. 

So that the end of such immoral existence is already in sight. 
The people of the Western nations see this coming, and feeling 
unable to stop in their career, comfort themselves (as people half 
aware that they are ruining their lives always do) by self-deception 
and blind faith ; and such blind faith is spreading more and more 
widely among the majority of Western nations. This faith is a 
belief that those inventions and improvements for increasing the 



THE MEANING OF THE RIJSSIAN REVOLUTION. ii 

comforts of the wealthy classes and for fighting (that is, slaughter- 
ing men) which the enslaved masses for several generations have 
been forced to produce, are something very important atid almost 
holy, called, in the language of those who uphold such a mode of 
life, "culture," or even more grandly, "civilisation." 

As every creed has a science of Its own, so this faith in 
"civilisation" has a science — Sociology, the one aim of which is to 
justify the false and desperate position in which the people of the 
Western world now find themselves. The object of this science is 
to prove that all these inventions: ironclads, telegraphs, nitro- 
glycerine bonibs, photographs, electric railways, and all sorts of 
similar foolish and nasty inventions that stupefy the people and 
are designed to increase the comforts of the idle classes and to 
protect them by force, not only represent something good, but ev^en 
something sacred, predetermined by supreme unalterable laws; and 
that, therefore, the depravity they call " civilisation " is a necessary 
condition of human life, and must inevitably be adopted by all 
mankind. 

And this faith is just as blind as any other faith, and just as 
unshakable and self-assured. 

Any other position may be disputed and argued about ; but 
" civilisation " — meaning those inventions and those forms of life 
among which we are living, and all the follies and nastiness which 
we produce — is an indubitable blessing, beyond all discussion. 
Everything that disturbs faith in civilisation is a lie; everything 
that supports this faith is sacred truth. 

This faith and its attendant science cause the Western nations 
not to wish to see or to acknowledge that the ruinous path they are 
following leads to inevitable destruction. The so-called " most 
advanced " among them, cheer themselves with the thought that 
without abandoning this path they can reach, not destruction, 
but the highest bliss. They assure themselves that, by again 
employing violence such as brought them to their present ruinous 
condition, somehow or other, from among people now striving to 
obtain the greatest material, animal welfare for themselves, men 



i8 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

(influenced by Socialist doctrines) will suddenly appear, who will 
wield power without being depraved by it, and will establish an 
order of things in which people accustomed to a greedy, selfish 
struggle for their own profit, will suddenly grow self-sacrificing, 
and all work together for the common good, and share alike. 

But this creed, having no reasonable foundation, has lately 
more and more lost credibility among thinking people ; and is 
held only by the labouring masses, whose eyes it diverts from the 
miseries of the present, giving them some sort of hope of a blissful 
future. 

Such is the common faith of the majority of the Western 
nations, drawing them towards destruction. And this tendency is 
so strong that the voices of the wise among them, such as 
Rousseau, Lamennais, Carlyle, Ruskin, Channing, W. L. Garrison, 
Emerson, Herzen and Edward Carpenter, leave no trace in the 
consciousness of those who, though rushing towards destruction, 
do not wish to see and admit it. 

And it is to travel this path of destruction that the Russian 
people are now invited by European politicians, who are delighted 
that one more nation should join them in their desperate plight. 
And frivolous Russians urge us to follow this path, considering it 
much easier and simpler, instead of thinking with their own heads, 
slavishly to imitate what the Western nations did centuries ago, 
before they knew whither it would lead. 



VIII. 

Submission to violence brought both the Eastern nations (who 
continue to submit to their depraved oppressors) and the Western 
nations (who have spread power and its accompanying depravity 
among the masses of the people) not only to great misfortunes, but 
also to an unavoidable collision between the Western and the 
Eastern nations ; which now threatens them both with still 
greater calamities. 



THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 19 

The Western nations, besides their distress at home and the 
corruption of the greater part of their population by participation 
in power, have been led to the necessity of seizing by force or 
fraud the fruits of the labour of the Eastern nations for their 
own consumption ; and this by certain methods they have devised 
called " civilisation," they succeeded in doing until the Eastern 
nations learnt the same methods. The Eastern nations, or the 
majority of them, still continue to obey their rulers, and, lagging 
behind the Western nations in devising things needed for war, were 
forced to submit to them. 

But some ot them are already beginning to acquire the 
depravity or " civilisation " which the Europeans are teaching 
them ; and, as the Japanese have shown, they can easily assimilate 
all the shallow, cunning methods of an immoral and cruel 
civilisation, and are preparing to withstand their oppressors by the 
same means that these employ against them. 

And now the Russian nation, standing between the two — • 
having partially acquired Western methods, yet till now continuing 
to submit to its Government — is placed, by fate itself, in a position 
in which it must stop and think : seeing on one side the miseries 
to which, like the Eastern nations, it has been brought by 
submission to a despotic Power ; and on the other hand, seeing 
that among the Western nations the limitation of power and its 
diffusion among the people, has not remedied the miseries of the 
people, but has only depraved them and put them in a position in 
which they have to live by deceiving and robbing other nations* 
And so the Russian people must naturally alter its attitude 
towards power, but not as the Western nations have done. 

The Russian nation now stands, like the hero of the fairy-tale, 
at the parting of two roads, both leading to destruction. 

It is impossible for the Russian nation to continue to submit 
to its Government. It is impossible, because having freed itself 
frorri the prestige which has hitherto enveloped the Russian 
Government, and having once understood that most of the miseries 
suffered by the people are caused by the Government, the Russian 



20 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

people cannot cease to be aware of the cause of the calamities they 
suffer, or cease to desire to free themselves from it. 

Besides, the Russian people cannot continue to submit to the 
Government, because now a Government — such a Government 
as gives security and tranquillity to a nation — no longer exists in 
reality. There are two envenomed and contending parties, but no 
Government to which it is possible quietly to submit. 

For Russians now to continue to submit to their Government, 
would mean to continue not only to bear the ever-increasing 
calamities which they have suffered and are suffering : land-hunger, 
famine, heavy taxes, cruel, useless and devastating wars ; but also 
and chiefly it would mean taking part in the crimes this 
Government, in its evidently useless attempts at self-defence, is 
now perpetrating. 

Still less reasonable v/ould it be for the Russian people to 
enter on the path of the Western nations, since the deadliness of 
that path is already plainly demonstrated. It would be evidently 
irrational for the Russian nation to act so ; for though it was 
possible for the Western nations, before they knew where it would 
lead them, to choose a path now seen to be false, the Russian 
people cannot help seeing and knowing its danger. 

Moreover, when they entered on that path, most of the Western 
people were already living by trade, exchange and commerce, or by 
direct (negro) or indirect slave-owning (as is now the case in 
Europe's Colonies) while the Russian nation is chiefly agricultural. 
For the Russian people to enter on the path along which the 
Westerners went, would mean consciously to commit the same 
acts of violence that the Government demands of it (only not for 
the Government, but ' against it) : to rob, burn, blow up, 
murder, and carry on civil war ; and to commit all these 
crimes knowing that it does so no longer in obedience to another's 
will, but at its own. And they would at last attain only what has 
been attained by the Western nations after centuries of struggle; 
they would go on suffering the same chief ills that they now 
suffer from : land-hunger, heavy and ever-increasing taxes, national 



THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION ai 

debts, growing armaments, and cruel, stupid wars. More than that, 
they would be deprived, like the Western nations, of their chief, 
blessing — their accustomed, beloved, agricultural life, and would 
drift into hopeless dependence on foreign labour ; and this under 
the most disadvantageous conditions, carrying on an industrial and 
commercial struggle with the Western nations, with the certainty 
of being vanquished. Destruction awaits them on this path and 
on that. 



IX. 

What, then, is the Russian nation to do ? 

The natural and simple answer, the direct outcome of the facts 
of the case, is to follow neither this path nor that. 

To submit neither to the Government which has brought it to 
its present wretched state ; nor, imitating the West, to set up a 
representative, force-using Government such as those which have 
led those nations to a still worse condition. 

This simplest and most natural answer is peculiarly suited to 
the Russian people at all times, and especially at the present crisis- 

For indeed, it is wonderful that a peasant husbandman of Tula, 
Saratof, Vologda, or Kharkof Province, without any profit to himself, 
and suffering all sorts of misery, such as taxation, law-courts, 
deprivation of land, conscription, etc., as a result of his submission 
to Government, should till now, contrary to the demands of his 
own conscience, have submitted, and should even have aided his 
own enslavement : paying taxes, without knowing or asking how 
they would be spent, giving his sons to be soldiers, knowing still 
less for what the sufferings and death of these so painfully reared 
and to him so necessary workers, were wanted. 

It would be just as strange, or even stranger, if such 
agricultural peasants, living their peaceful, independent life without 
any need of a Government, and wishing to be rid of the burdens 
they endure at the hands of a violent and to them unnecessary 
power, instead of simply ceasing to submit to it, were, by em- 



22 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

ploying violence similar to that from which they suffer, to replace 
the old force-using power by a new force-using power, as the 
French and English peasants did in their time. 

Why ! the Russian agricultural population need only cease to 
obey any kind of force-using Government and refuse to participate 
in it, and immediately taxes, military service, all official oppressions, 
as well as private property in land, and the misery of the working 
classes that results from it, would cease of themselves. All these 
misfortunes would cease, because there would be no one to inflict 

them. 

The historic, economic and religious conditions of the Russian 
nation place it in exceptionally favourable circumstances for 
acting in this manner. 

In the first place it has reached the point at which a change 
of its old relations towards the existing power has become 
inevitable after the wrongfulness of the path travelled by the 
Western nations (with whom it has long been in closest connection) 
has become fully apparent. 

Power in the West has completed its circle. The Western 
peoples, like all others, accepted a force-using power at first in 
order themselves to escape from the struggles, cares, and sins of 
power. When that power became corrupt and burdensome, they 
tried to lighten its weight by limiting (that is, by participating in) 
it. This participation, spreading out more and more widely, caused 
more and more people to share in power ; and finally the majority 
of the people (who at first submitted to power to avoid strife and 
to escape from participation in power) have had to take part both 
in strife and in power, and have suffered the inevitable 
accompaniment of power — corruption. 

It has become quite clear that the pretended limitation of 
power only means changing those in power, increasing their 
number, and thereby increasing the amount of depravity, irritation 
and anger among men. (The power remains as it was : the power 
of a minority of the worse men over a majority of the better.) It 
has also become plain that an increase in number of those in 



THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 23 

power has drawn people from the labour on the land natural to all 
men, to factory labour for the production (and over-production) of 
unnecessary and harmful things, and has obliged the majority of 
Western nations to base their lives on the deception and en- 
slavement of other nations. 

The fact that in our days all this has become quite obvious in 
the lives of the Western nations, is the first condition favourable to 
the Russian people, who have now reached the moment when they 
must change their relation towards Power. 

For the Russian people to follow the path the Western nations 
have trodden, would be as though a traveller followed a path on 
which those who went before him had lost their way, and from 
which the most far-seeing of them were already returning. 

Secondly : while all the Western nations have more or less 
abandoned agriculture and are living chiefly by manufacture and 
commerce, the Russian people have arrived at the necessity of 
changing their relation towards Power while the immense majority 
of them are still living an agricultural life, which they love and 
prize so much that most Russians when torn from it, are always 
ready to return to it at the first opportunity. 

This condition is ot special value for Russians when freeing 
themselves from the evils of power ; for while leading an 
agricultural life men have the least need of Government ; or rather, 
an agricultural life, less than any other, gives a Government 
opportunities of interfering with the life of the people. I know 
some village communes which emigrated to the Far East and settled 
in places where the frontier between China and Russia was not 
clearly defined, and lived there in prosperity, disregarding all 
Governments, until they were discovered by Russian officials. 

Townsmen generally regard agriculture as one of the lowest 
occupations to which man can devote himself Yet the enormous 
majority of the population of the whole world are engaged in 
agriculture, and on it the possibility of existence for all the rest 
of the human race depends. So that, in reality, the human race 
^re husbandmen. All the rest— ministers, locksmiths, professors, 



24 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

carpenters, artists, tailors, scientists, physicians, generals, soldiers — 
are but the servants or parasites of the agriculturist. So that 
agriculture, besides being the most moral, healthy, joyful and 
necessary occupation, is also the highest of human activities, and 
alone gives men true independence. 

The enormous majority of Russians are still living this most 
natural, moral and independent agricultural life ; and this is the 
second, most important, circumstance, which makes it possible and 
natural for the Russian people, now that it is faced by the 
necessity of changing its relations towards power, to change them 
in no other way than by freeing themselves from the evil of all 
power, and simply ceasing to submit to any kind of Government. 

These are the first two conditions, both of which are external. 

The third condition, an inner one, is the religious feeling which 
according to the evidence of history, the observation of foreigners 
who have studied the Russian people, and especially the inner 
consciousness of every Russian, was and is a special characteristic 
of the Russian people. 

In Western Europe — either because the Gospels printed in 
Latin were inaccessible to the people till the time of the 
Reformation, and have remained till now inaccessible to the whole 
Roman Catholic world, or because of the refined methods which 
the Papacy employs to hide true Christianity from the people, or in 
consequence of the specially practical character of those nations — 
there is no doubt that the essence of Christianity, not only among 
Roman Catholics but also among Lutherans, and even more in the 
Anglican Church, has long ceased to be a faith directing people's 
lives, and has been replaced by external forms, or among the 
higher classes by indifference and the rejection of all religion. 
For the vast majority of Russians, however — perhaps because the 
Gospels became accessible to them as early as the tenth century, 
or because of the coarse stupidity of the Russo-Greek Church, 
which tried clumsily and therefore vainly to hide the true meaning 
of the Christian teaching, or because of some peculiar trait in the 
Hessian char^^ter, an4 because of their agricultural life— Christian 



THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 25 

teaching in its practical application has never ceased to be, and 
still continues to be, the chief guide of life. 

From the earliest times till now, the Christian understanding of 
life has manifested, and still manifests, itself among the Russian 
people in most various traits, peculiar to them alone. It shows 
itself in their acknowledgment of the brotherhood and equality 
of all men, of whatever race or nationality ; in their complete 
religious toleration ; in their not condemning criminals, but 
regarding them as unfortunate; in the custom of begging one 
another's forgiveness on certain days ; and even in the habitual use 
of a form of the word * forgive ' when taking leave of anybody ; in 
the habit not merely of charity towards, but even of respect for 
beggars which is common among the people; in the perfect readiness 
(sometimes coarsely shown) for self-sacrifice for anything believed 
to be religious truth, which was shown and still is shown by those 
who burn themselves to death, or castrate themselves, and even (as 
in a recent case) by those who bury themselves alive. 

The same Christian outlook always appeared in the relation of 
the Russian people towards those in power. The people always 
preferred to submit to power, rather than to share in it. They 
considered, and consider, the position of rulers to be sinful and 
not at all desirable. This Christian relation of the Russian 
people towards life generally, and especially towards those in 
power, is the third and most important condition which makes it 
most simple and natural for them at the present juncture to go on 
living their customary, agricultural. Christian life, without taking 
any part either in the old power, or in the struggle between the old 
and the new. 

Such are the three conditions, different to those of the Western 
nations, in which the Russian people find themselves placed at the 
present important time. These conditions, it would seem, ought to 
induce them to choose the simplest way out of the difficulty, by not 
accepting and not submitting to any kind of force-using power. 
Yet the Russian people, at this difficult and important crisis, do 
not choose the natural way, but, wavering between Governmental 



26 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

and Revolutionary violence, begin (in the persons of their worst 
representatives) to take part in the violence, and seem to be 
preparing to follow the road to destruction along which the 
Western nations have travelled. 
Why is this so ? 



X. 

What has caused, and still causes, this surprising phenomenon 
that people suffering from the abuse of power which they 
themselves tolerate and support, do not free themselves in the 
most simple and easy way from all the disasters brought about by 
power ; that is to say, do not simply cease obeying it ? And not 
only do not act thus, but go on doing the very things that deprive 
them of physical and mental well-being; that is to say, either 
continue to obey the existing power, or establish another similar 
force-using power, and obey that ? 

V/hy is this so ? People feel that their unhappy position is 
the result of violence, and are dimly aware that to get rid of their 
misery they need freedom ; but, strange to say, to get rid ot 
violence and gain freedom, they seek, invent and use all sorts of 
measures: mutiny, change of rulers, alterations of Government 
all kinds of Constitutions, new arrangements between different 
States, Colonial policies, enrolment of the unemployed, trusts, 
social organisations — everything but the one thing that would most 
simply, easily, and surely free them from all their distresses : the 
refusal to submit to power. 

One might think that it must be quite clear to people not 
deprived of reason, that violence breeds violence ; that the only 
means of deliverance from violence lies in not taking part in it. 
This method, one would think, is quite obvious. It is evident 
that a great majority of men can be enslaved by a small minority 
only if the enslaved themselves take part in their own 
enslavement. 



THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 27 

If people are enslaved, it is only because they either fight 
violence with violence or participate in violence for their own 
personal profit. 

Those who neither struggle against violence nor take part in it 
can no more be enslaved than water can be cut. 

They can be robbed, prevented from moving about, wounded 
or killed, but they cannot be enslaved : that is, made to act 
against their own reasonable will. 

This is true both of individuals and of nations. If the 
200,000,000 Hindoos did not submit to the Power which demands 
their participation in deeds of violente, always connected with 
the taking of human life : if they did not enlist, paid no taxes 
to be used for violence, were not tempted by rewards offered by 
the conquerors (rewards originally taken from themselves) and 
did not submit to the English laws introduced among them, then 
neither 50,000 Englishmen, nor all the English in the world, could 
enslave India, even if instead of 200,000,000 there were but 1,000 
Hindoos. So it is in the cases of Poles, Czechs, Irish, Bedouins, 
and all the conquered races. And it is the same in the case of 
the workmen enslaved by the capitalists. Not all the capitalists 
in the world could enslave the workers if the workmen themselves 

did not help, and did not take part in their own enslavement 
All this is so evident that one is ashamed to mention it. And 

yet people who discuss all other conditions of life reasonably, not 

only do not see and do not act as reason dictates in this matter, 

but act quite contrary to reason and to their own advantage. 

Each one says, " I can't be the first to do what nobody else does. 

Let others begin, and then I too will cease to submit to power." 

And so says a second, a third, and everybody. 

All, under the pretence that no one can begin, instead of acting 

in a manner unquestionably advantageous to all, continue to do 

what is disadvantageous to everybody, and is also irrational and 

contrary to human nature. 

No one likes to cease submitting to power, lest he should be 

persecuted by power ; yet he well knows that obeying power 



28 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

means being subject to all sorts of the gravest calamities in wars 
foreign or civil. 

What is the cause of this ? 

The cause of it is, that people when yielding to power do not 
reason, but act under the influence of something that has always 
been one of the most widespread motives of human action, and has 
lately been most carefully studied and explained ; it is called 
"suggestion" or hypnotism. This hypnotism, preventing people 
from acting in accordance with their reasonable nature and their 
own interest, and forcing them to do what is unreasonable and 
disadvantageous, causes them to believe that the violence perpe- 
trated by people calling themselves " the Government ^' is not 
simply the immoral conduct of immoral men, but is the action of 
some mysterious, sacred Being, called the State, without which 
men never have existed (which is quite untrue) and never can 
exist. 

But how can reasonable beings, men, submit to such a surprising 
suggestion, contrary to reason, feeling, and to their own interest ? 

The answer to this question is, that not only do children, the 
mentally diseased and idiots, succumb to hypnotic influence and 
suggestion, but all persons, to the extent to which their religious 
consciousness is weakened : their consciousness of their relation to 
the Supreme Cause on which their existence depends. And the 
majority of the people of our times more and m*ore lack this 
consciousness. 

The reason that most people of our time lack this consciousness 
is that having once committed the sin of submitting to human 
power, and not acknowledging this sin to be a sin, but trying to 
hide it from themselves, or to justify it, they have exalted the 
power to which they submit to such an extent that it has replaced 
God's law for them. When human law replaced divine law, men 
lost religious consciousness and fell under the governmental 
hypnotism, which suggests to them the illusion that those who 
enslave them are not simply lost, vicious men, but fire repre^ 



THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 29 

sentatives of that mystic Being, the State, without which it is 
supposed that men are unable to exist. 

The vicious circle has been completed ; submission to Power 
has weakened, and partly destroyed, the religious feeling in men ; 
and the weakening and cessation of religious consciousness has 
subjected them to human power. 

The sin of Power began like this : The oppressors said to the 
oppressed, "Fulfil what we demand of you; if you disobey, 
wc will kill you. But if you submit to us, we will introduce order 
and will protect you from other oppressors." 

And the oppressed, in order to live their accustomed lives, and 
not to have to fight these and other oppressors, seem to have 
answered : "Very well, we will submit to you ; introduce whatever 
order you choose, we will uphold it ; only let us live quietly, 
supporting ourselves and our families." 

The oppressors did not recognise their sin, being carried away 
by the attractions and advantages of Power. The oppressed 
thought it no sin to submit to the oppressors, for it seemed better 
to submit than to fight. But there was sin in this submission ; 
and as great a sin as that of those who used violence. Had the 
oppressed endured all the hardships, taxations and cruelties 
without acknowledging the authority of the oppressors to be lawful, 
and without promising to obey it, they would not have sinned. But 
in the promise to submit to power lay a sin {a fiapr la, error, sin) equal 
to that of the wielders of power. 

In promising to submit to a force-using power, and in 
recognizing it as lawful, there lay a double sin. First, that in 
trying to free them.selves from the sin of fighting, those who 
submitted condoned that sin in those to whom they submitted ; 
and secondly, that they renounced their true freedom (i.e., 
submission to the will of God) by promising always to obey the 
power. Such a promise (including as it does the admission of the 
possibility of disobedience to God in case the demands of 
established power should clash with the laws of God), a promise to 
obey the power of man, was a rejection of the will of God ; for the 



30 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

force-using power of the State, demanding from those who submit 
to it participation in killing men, in wars, executions and in laws 
sanctioning preparations for wars and executions, is based on a 
direct contradiction to God's will. Therefore those who submit to 
power thereby renounce their submission to the law of God. 

One cannot yield a little on one point, and on another maintain 
the law of God. It is evident that if in one thing God's law can 
be replaced by human law, then God's law is no longer the highest 
law incumbent at all times on men ; and if it is not that, i 
is nothing. 

Deprived of the guidance given by divine law (that is, the 
highest capacity of human nature) men inevitably sink to that 
lowest grade of human existence where the only motives of their 
actions are their personal passions and the hypnotism to which 
they are subject. Under such an hypnotic suggestion of the 
necessity of obedience to Government, lie all the nations that live 
in the unions called States ; and the Russian people are in the 
same condition. 

This is the cause of that apparently strange phenomenon, that 
a hundred millions of Russian cultivators of the soil, needing no 
kind of government, and constituting so large a majority that they 
may be called the whole Russian nation, do not choose the most 
natural and best way out of their present condition (by simply 
ceasing to submit to any force-using power) but continue to take 
part in the old Government and enslave themselves more and 
more ; or, fighting against the old Government, prepare for 
themselves a new one which, like the old one, will employ 
violence. 



XL 

We often read and hear discussions as to the causes of the 
present excited, restless condition of all the Christian nations, 
threatened by all sorts of dangers ; and of the terrible position in^ 
which the demented, and in part brutalised, Russian people find- 



THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 31 

themselves at present. The most varied explanations are brought 
forward ; yet all the reasons can be reduced to one. Men have 
forgotten God^ that is to say, they have forgotten their relations to 
the infinite Source of Life, forgotten the meaning of life which is 
the outcome of those relations, and which consists, first of all, in 
fulfilling, for one's own soul's sake, the law given by this Divine 
Source. They have forgotten this, because some of them have 
assumed a right to rule over men by means of threats of murder ; 
and others have consented to submit to these people, and to 
participate in their rule. By the very act of submitting, these men 
have denied God and exchanged His law for human law. 

Forgetting their relation to the Infinite, the majority of men 
have descended, in spite of all the subtlety of their mental 
achievements, to the lowest grade of consciousness, where they 
are guided only by animal passions and by the hypnotism of the 
herd. 

That is the cause of all their calamities. 

Therefore there is but one escape from the miseries with vv^hich 
people torment themselves : it lies in re-establishing in themselves 
a consciousness of their dependence on God, and thereby 
regaining a reasonable and free relation towards themselves and 
towards their fellows. 

And so it is just this conscious submission to God, and the 
consequent abandonment of the sin of power and of submission to 
it, that now stands before all nations that suffer from the 
consequence of this sin. 

The possibility and necessity of ceasing to submit to human 
power and of returning to the laws of God, is dimly felt by all 
men, and especially vividly by the Russian people just now. And 
in this dim consciousness of the possibility and necessity of 
re-establishing their obedience to the law of God and ceasing to 
obey human power, lies the essence of the movement now taking 
place in Russia. 

What is happening in Russia is — not, as many people suppose 
a rebellion of the people against their Government in order to 



33 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

replace one Government by another ; but a much greater and more 
important event. What now moves the Russian people is a dim 
recognition of the wrongness and unreasonableness of all violence, 
and of the possibility and necessity of basing one's life not on 
coercive power, as has been the case hitherto among all nations, 
but on reasonable and free agreement. 

Whether the Russian nation will accomplish the great task nov/ 
before it (the task of liberating men from human power 
substituted for the will of God) or whether, following the path of 
the Western nations, it will lose its opportunity and leave to some 
other happier Eastern race the leadership in the great work that 
lies before humanity, there is no doubt that at the present day all 
nations are becoming more and more conscious of the possibility 
of changing this violent, insane and wicked life, for one that shall 
be free, rational and good. And what already exists in men's 
consciousness will inevitably accomplish itself in real life. For the 
will of God must be, and cannot fail to be, realised. 



XII. 

" But is social life possible without power ? Without power 
men would be continually robbing and killing one another, " say 
those who believe only in human law. People of this sort are 
sincerely convinced that men refrain from crime and live orderly 
lives, only because of laws, courts of justice, police, officials, and 
armies ; and that without governmental power social life would 
become impossible. Men depraved by power fancy that as some 
of the crimes committed in the State are punished by the 
Government, it is this punishment that prevents men from 
committing other possible crimes. But the fact that Government 
punishes some crimes does not at all prove that the existence of 
law-courts, police, armies, prisons and death-penalties, holds men 
back from all the crimes they might commit. That the amount 
of crime committed in a society does not at all depend on the 



i$^ 



THE MEANING Of THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION, ss 

punitive action of governments, is quite clearly proved by the fact 

that when society is in a certain mood, no increase of punitive 

measures by Government is able to prevent the perpetration of 

most daring and cruel crimes, imperilling the safety of the 

community, as has been the case in every Revolution, and as is 

now the case in Russia to a most striking degree. 

The cause of this is that men, the majority of men (all the 

labouring folk) abstain from crimes and live good lives — not 

because there are police, armies and executions, but because there 

is a moral perception, common to the bulk of mankind, established 

by their comnion religious understanding and by the education, 

customs and public opinion, founded on that understanding. 

This moral conciousness alone, expressed in public opinion, 

keeps men from crimes, both in town centres and more especially 

in villages, where the majority of the population dwell. 

I repeat, that I know many examples of Russian agricultural 

communities emigrating to the Far East and prospering there for 

several decades. These communes governed themselves, being 

unknown to the Government and outside its control, and when 

they were discovered by Government agents, the only result was 

that they experienced calamities unknown to them before, and 

received a new tendency towards the commission of crime. 

Not only does the action of Governments not deter men from 

crimes ; on the contrary, it increases crime by always disturbing 

and lowering the moral standard of society. Nor can this be 

otherwise, since always and everywhere a Government, by its very 

nature, must put in the place of the highest, eternal, religious law 

(not written in books but in the hearts of men, and binding on 

every one) its own unjust, man-made laws, the object of which is 

neither justice nor the common good of all^ but various 

considerations of home and foreign expediency. 

Such are all the existing, evidently unjust, fundamental laws 

of every Government : laws maintaining the exclusive right of a 

minority to the land — the common possession of all ; laws giving 

some men a right over the labour of others ; laws compelling men 

D 



34 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

to pay money for purposes of murder, or to become soldiers 
themselves and go to war; laws establishing monopolies in the sale 
of stupefying intoxicants, or forbidding the free exchange of 
produce across a certain line called a frontier ; and laws regarding 
the execution of men for actions which are not so much immoral, 
as simply disadvantageous to those in power. 

All these laws, and the exaction of their fulfilment by threats of 
violence, the public executions inflicted for the non-fulfilment of 
these laws, and above all the forcing of men to take part in wars, 
the habitual exaltation of military murders, and the preparation 
for them — all this inevitably lowers the moral social conciousnesss 
and its expression, public opinion. 

So that Governmental activity not only does not support morality, 
but, on the contrary, it would be hard to devise a more depraving 
action than that which Governments have had, and still have, on 
the nations. 

It could never enter the head of any ordinary scoundrel to 
commit all those horrors ; the stake, the Inquisition, torture, raids, 
quarterings, hangings, solitary confinements, murders in war, the 
plundering of nations, etc., which have been and still are being 
committed, and committed ostentatiously, by all Governments. All 
the horrors of Stenka Razin, Pougatchef* and other rebels, were but 
results, and feeble imitations, of the horrors perpetrated by the 
Johns, Peters, and Birons,+ and that have been and are being perpe- 
rated by all Governments. If (which is very doubtful) the action of, 
Government does deter some dozens of men from crime, hundreds 
of thousands of other crimes are committed only because men are 
educated in crime by Governmental injustice and cruelty. 

If men taking part in legislation, in commerce, in industries, 
living in towns, and in one way or other sharing the advantages of 
power, can still believe in the beneficence of that power, people 
living on the land cannot help knowing that Government only 

* Stenka Razin and Pougatchef were famous Russian rebels of the 
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. {Trans) 

t Biron, the favourite of the Empress Anne, ruled Russia for ten year§ 
(1730-1741). {Trans.) 



THE MEANING OF THE RUSSlAH REVOLUTION. 35 

causes them all kinds of suffering and deprivation, was never 
needed by them and only corrupts those of them who come under 
its influence. 

So that to try to prove to men that they cannot live without a 
Government, and that the injury the thieves and robbers among 
them may do is greater than the injury both material and spiritual 
which Government continually does by oppressing and corrupting 
them, is as strange as it would have been to try to prove to slaves 
that it was more profitable for them to be slaves than to be free, 
But just as, in the days of slavery, in spite of the obviously 
wretched condition the slaves were in, the slave-owners declared 
and created a belief that it was good for slaves to be slaves, and 
that they would be worse off if they were free (sometimes the slaves 
themselves became hypnotised and believed this) so now the 
Government, and people who profit by it, argue that Governments 
which rob and deprave men are necessary for their well-being, and 
men yield to this suggestion. 

Men believe in it all, and must continue to do so ; for not 
believing in the law of God, they must put their faith in human 
law. Absence of human law for them means the absence of all 
law ; and life for men who recognise no law, is terrible. Therefore, 
for those who do not acknowledge the law of God, the absence of 
human law must seem terrible, and they do not wish to be deprived 
of it. 

This lack of belief in the law of God, is the cause of the 
apparently curious phenomenon, that all the theoretical anarchists, 
clever and learned men — from Bakounin and Prudhon to Reclus. 
Max Stirner and Kropotkin — who prove with indisputable 
correctness and justice the unreasonableness and harmfulness of 
power, as soon as they begin to speak of the possibility of 
establishing a society without that human law which they reject, 
fall at once into indefiniteness, verbosity, rhetoric, and quite 
unfounded and fantastic hypotheses. 

This arises from the fact that none of these theoretic anarchists 
accept that law of God common to all men, which it is 



36 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN R£V0LUTI01^. 

natural for all to obey ; and without the obedience of men to one 
and the same law — human or divine— human society cannot 
exist. 

Deliverance from human law is only possible on condition 
that one acknowledges a divine law common to all men. 



XIIL 

" But if a primitive agricultural society, like the Russian, cart 
live without government," will be said in reply, " what are those, 
millions to do who have given up agriculture and are living an 
industrial life in towns? We cannot all cultivate the land." 

" The only thing every man can be, is an agriculturist," is the 
correct reply given by Henry George to this question. 

"But if everybody now returned to an agricultural life," it 
will again be said, " the civilisation mankind has attained would 
be destroyed, and that would be a terrible misfortune ; and 
therefore a return to agriculture would be an evil and not a 
benefit for mankind." 

A certain method exists whereby men justify their fallacies, 
and it is this : People, accepting the fallacy into which they have 
fallen as an unquestionable axiom, unite this fallacy and all its 
effects into one conception, and call it by one word, and then 
ascribe to this conception and word a special, indefinite and 
mystical meaning. Such conceptions and words are, the Churchy 
Science, Justice, tJie State, and Civilization, Thus, the Church 
becomes not what it really is, a number of men who have all fallen 
into the same error, but a "communion of those v/ho believe rightly." 
Justice becomes not a collection of unjust laws framed by certain 
men, but the designation of those rightful conditions under 
which alone it is possible for men to live. Science becomes not what 
it really is : the chance dissertations which at a given time occupy 
the minds of idle men, but the only true knov/ledge. 
In the same way Civilisation becomes not what it really is : the 



THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 37 

outcome of the activity (falsely and harmfully misdirected by force- 
using Governments) of the Western nations, who have succumbed 
to the false idea of freeing themselves from violence by violence, 
but the unquestionably true way towards the future welfare 
of humanity. ** Even if it be true," say the supporters of 
civilization, ''that all these inventions, technical appliances and 
products of industry, are now only used by the rich and are 
inaccessible to working men, and cannot therefore as yet be 
considered a benefit to all mankind, this is so only because these 
mechanical appliances have not yet attained their full perfection 
and are not yet distributed as they should be. When mechanism 
is still further perfected, and the workmen are freed from the 
power of the Capitalists, and all the works and factories are in 
their hands, the machines will produce so much of everything 
and it will all be so well distributed, that everybody will have 
the use of everything. No one will lack anything, and all will be 
happy." 

Not to mention the fact that we have no reason to believe 
that the working men who now struggle so fiercely with one 
another for existence, or even for more of the comforts, pleasures 
and luxuries of existence, will suddenly become so just and self- 
denying that they will be content to share equally the benefits the 
machines are going to give them — leaving that aside — the very 
supposition that all these works with their machines, which could 
not have been started or continued except under the power of 
Government and Capital, will remain as they are, when the power 
of Government and Capital have been destroyed, is a quite 
arbitrary supposition. 

To expect it, is the same as it would have been to expect that 
after the emancipation of the serfs on one of the large, luxurious 
Russian estates, which had a p.irk, conservatories, arbours, private 
theatrical troupe, an orchestra, a picture gallery, stables, kennels 
and store-houses filled with different kinds of garments — all these, 
things would be in part distributed among the liberated peasants 
and in part kept for common us§. 



S8 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

One would think it was evident that on an estate of that kind, 
neither the houses, clothes, nor conservatories of the rich proprietor 
would be suitable for the liberated peasants, and they would 
not continue to keep them up. In the same way, ^hen the 
working people are emancipated from the power of Government 
and capital, they will not continue to maintain the arrangements 
that have arisen under these powers, and will not go to work in 
factories and works which could only have come into existence 
owing to their enslavement, even if such factories could be 
profitable and pleasant for them. 

It is true that when the workers are emancipated from slavery 
one will regret all this cunning machinery which weaves so much 
beautiful stuff so quickly, and makes such nice sweets, looking- 
glasses, etc., but, in the same way, after the emancipation of the 
serfs one regretted the beautiful race-horses, pictures, magnolias, 
musical instruments and private theatres that disappeared. But 
just as the liberated serfs bred animals suited to their way of life, 
and raised plants they required, and the race-horses and magnolias 
disappeared of themselves, so the workm^en, freed from the power 
of Government and capital, will direct their labour to quite other 
work than at present. 

" But it is much more profitable to bake all the bread in one 
oven than that everybody should heat his own, and to weave 
twenty times as quickly at a factory as on a handloom at 
home," say the supporters of civilization, speaking as if men were 
dumb cattle for v/hom food, clothing, dwellings, and more or less 
labour, were the only questions to solve. 

An Australian savage knows very well that it would be more 
profitable to build one hut for himself and his wife, yet he erects 
two, so that both he and his wife may enjoy privacy. The 
Russian peasant knows very decidedly that it is more profitable 
for him to live in one house with his father and brothers ; yet he 
Separates from them, builds his own cottage, and prefers to bear 
privations rather than obey his elders, or quarrel and have 
disagreement, " Better but a pot of broth, and one's own master 



THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 39 

be I '* I think the majority of reasonable people will prefer to 
clean their own clothes and boots, carry water, and trim their own 
lamps, than go to a factory and do obligatory labour for one hour 
a day to produce machines that would do all these things. 

When coercion is no longer used, nothing of all these fine 
machines that polish boots and clean plates, nor even of those that 
bore tunnels and impress steel, etc., will probably remain. The 
liberated workmen will inevitably let everything that was founded 
on their enslavement perish, and will inevitably begin to construct 
quite other machines and appliances, with other aims, of other 
dimensions, and very differently distributed. 

This is so plain and obvious, that men could not help seeing it 
if they were not under the influence of the superstition of 
civilization. 

It is this wide-spread and firmly-fixed superstition that causes 
all indications of the falseness of the path the Western nations are 
travelling, and all attempts to bring the erring peoples back to a 
free and reasonable life, to be rejected, and even to be regarded as 
a kind of blasphemy or madness. This blind belief that the life 
we have arranged for ourselves is the best possible life, also causes 
all the chief agents of civilization — its Government officials 
scientists, artists, merchants, manufacturers, and authors— while 
making the workers support their idle lives — to overlook their own 
sins and to feel perfectly sure that their activity is, not an immoral 
and harmful activity (as it really is), but a very useful and 
important one, and that they are, therefore, very important people 
and of great use to humanity ; and that all the stupid, trifling, and 
nasty things produced under their direction, such as cannons, 
fortresses, cinematographs, cathedrals, motors, explosive bombs, 
phonographs, telegraphs, and steam printing-machines that turn out 
mountains of paper printed with nastiness, lies and absurdities, will 
remain just the same when the workers are free, and will always 
be a great boon to humanity. 

Yet to people free from the superstition of civilization, it cannot 
but be perfectly obvious that all those conditions of life which 



40 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

among the Western nations are now called " civilization," are 
nothing but monstrous results of the vanity of the upper, 
governing classes, such as were the productions of the Egyptian, 
Babylonian and Roman despots : the pyramids, temples and 
seraglios; or such as were the productions of the Russian serf- 
owners : palaces, serf-orchestras, private theatrical troupes, artificial 
lakes, lace, hunting packs and parks, which the slaves arranged for 
their lords. 

It is said that if men cease to obey Governments and return to 
an agricultural life, all the industrial progress they have attained 
will be lost, and that, therefore, to give up obeying Government 
and to return to an agricultural life would be a bad thing. But 
there is no reason to suppose that a return to agricultural 
life, free from Government, would destroy such industries and 
achievements as are really useful to mankind, and do not require 
the enslavement of men. And if it stopped the production of that 
endless number of unnecessary, stupid and harmful things, on 
which a considerable portion of humanity is now employed, and 
rendered impossible the existence of the idle people who invent 
all the unnecessary and harmful things by which they justify their 
immoral lives, that does not mean that all that mankind has, 
worked out for its welfare would be destroyed. On the contrary 
the destruction of everything that is kept up by coercion, would 
evoke and promote an intensified production of all those useful 
and necessary technical improvements which, without turning men 
into machines and spoiling their lives, may ease the labour of the 
agriculturists and render their lives more pleasant. 

The difference v/ill only be, that when men are liberated from 
power and return to agricultural labour, the objects produced by 
art and industry will no longer aim at amusing the rich, satisfying 
idle curiosity, preparing for human slaughter, preserving useless 
and harmful lives at the cost of useful ones, or producing machines 
by which a small number of workmen can somehow produce a 
great number of things or cultivate a large tract of land ; but they 
will aim at increasing the productiveness of the work of those 



THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 41 

labourers who cultivate their own allotments with their own hands, 
and help to better their lives without taking them away from the 
land or interfering with their freedom, 

XIV. 

But will people be able to live without obeying some human 
power? How will they conduct their common business? What 
will become of the different States ? What will happen to Ireland, 
Poland, Finland, Algeria, India^ and to all the Colonies ? How 
will the nations group themselves ? 

Such questions are put by men who are accustomed to think 
that the conditions of life of all human societies are decided by the 
will and direction of a few individuals, and who therefore imagine 
that the knowledge of how future life will shape itself is accessible 
to man. Such knowledge, however, never was, nor can be, 
accessible. 

If the most learned and best educated Roman citizen, accus- 
tomed to think that the life of the world was guided by the decrees 
of the Roman Senate and Emperors, had been asked what would 
become of the Roman Empire in a few centuries : or if he had 
himself thought of writing such a book as Bellamy's, you may be 
sure that he never could have foretold even approximately, either 
the Barbarians, or Feudalism, or the Papacy, or the disintegration 
of the peoples and their reunion into large States. The same 13 
true of those Utopias, with flying machines, X-rays, electric motors, 
and Socialist organizations of life in the twenty-first century, 
which are so daringly drawn by the Bellamys, Morrises, Anatole 
Frances, and others. 

Men cannot know what form social life will take in the future 
and more than that, harm results from their thinking they can 
know it. For nothing so interferes with the straight current of 
their lives as this fancied knowledge of what the future life 
of humanity ought to be. The life of individuals as well as of 
communities consists only in this — that men and communities con- 



42 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

tinually move towards the unknown ; changing not because certain 
men have formed brain-spun plans as to what these changes should 
be, but in consequence of a tendency inherent in all men to strive 
towards moral perfection, attainable by the infinitely varied activity 
of millions and millions of human lives. Therefore the relation in 
which men will stand towards one another, and the forms into 
which they shape society depend entirely on the inner characters 
of men, and not at all on forecasting this or that form of life 
which they desire to adopt. Yet those who do not believe in 
God's law, always imagine that they can know what the future 
state of society should be, and not only define this future state, but 
do all sorts of things they themselves admit to be evil, in order to 
mould human society to the shape they think it ought to take. 

That others do not agree with them, and think that social life 
should be quite differently arranged, does not disturb them ; and 
having assured themselves that they can know what the future of 
society ought to be, they not only decide this theoretically, but 
act: fight, seize property, imprison and kill men, to establish the 
form in which, according to their ideas, mankind will be happy. 

The old argument of Caiaphas, *' It is expedient that one man 
should die, and that the whole nation perish not," seems irrefutable 
to such people. Of course they must kill, not one man only, but 
hundreds and thousands of men, if they are fully assured that the 
death of these thousands will give welfare to millions. People who 
do not believe in God and His law, cannot but argue thus. Such 
people live in obedience only to their passions, to their reasonings, 
and to social hypnotism, and have never considered their destiny 
of life, nor wherein the real happiness of humanity consists 
or, if they have thought about it, they have decided that this 
cannot be known. And these people, who do not know wherein 
the welfare of a single man lies, imagine that they know, and 
know beyond all doubt, what is needed for the welfare of society as 
a whole : know it so certainly, that to attain that welfare, as they 
understand it, they commit deeds of violence, murders and 
executions, which they themselves admit to be evil 



THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 43 

At first it seems strange that men who do not know what they 
themselves need, can imagine that they know clearly and indubitably 
what the whole community needs ; and yet it is just because they 
do not know what they need, that they imagine they know what 
the whole community needs. 

The dissatisfaction they (lacking all guidance for their lives) 
dimly feel, they attribute not to themselves, but to the badness of 
the existing forms of social life, which differ from the one they have 
invented. And in cares for the rearrangement of society they find 
a possibility of escaping from consciousness of the wrongness of 
their own lives. That is why those who do not know what to do 
with themselves are always particularly sure what ought be done 
with society as a whole. The less they know about themselves, 
the more sure they are about society. Such men for the most part 
are either very thoughtless youths, or are the most depraved of social 
leaders, such as the Marats, Napoleons and Bismarcks ; and 
that is why the history of the nations is full of most terrible evil- 
doings. 

The worst effect of this imaginary fore-knowledge of what 
society should be, and of this activity directed to the alteration of 
society, is that it is just this supposed knowledge and this activity 
which more than anything else hinders the movement of the 
community along the path natural to it for its true welfare. 

Therefore to the question, " What will the lives of the nations 
be like which cease to obey power ? " we reply that we not only 
do not know, but ought not to suppose that anyone can know. 
We do not know in what circumstances these nations will be 
placed when they cease to obey power ; but we know indubitably 
what each one of us must do, that those conditions of national life 
should be the very best. We know, without the least doubt, that 
in order to make those conditions the very best, we must first of 
all abstain from acts of violence which the existing power 
demands of us, as well as from those to which men fighting 
against the existing power to establish a new one, invite us ; and 
we must therefore not obey any power. We must refuse to 



44 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

submit, not because we know how our life will shape itself in 
consequence of our ceasing to obey power, but because submission 
to a power that demands that we should break the law of God, is 
a sin. This we know beyond doubt, and we also know that as a 
consequence of not transgressing God's will and not sinningj 
nothing but good can come to us or to the whole world.. 



XV. 

People are prone to believe in the realization of the most 
improbable events under the sun. They believe in the possibility 
of flying and communicating with the planets, in the possibility of 
arranging Socialistic Communes, in spiritualistic communications, 
and in many other palpably impossible things ; but they do not 
wish to believe that the conception of life in which they and all 
who surround them live, can ever be altered. 

And yet such changes, even the most extraordinary, are 
continually taking place in ourselves, and among those around us, 
and among whole communities and nations ; and it is these 
changes that constitute the essence of human life. 

Not to mention changes that have happened in historic times 
in the social consciousness of nations, at present in Russia, before 
our very eyes, an apparently astonishing change is taking place 
with incredible rapidity in the consciousness of the whole Russian 
nation, of which we had no external indication two or three years 
ago. 

The change only seems to us to have taken place suddenly, 
because the preparation for it, which went on in the spiritual region 
was not visible. A similar change is still going on in the spiritual 
region inaccessible to our observations. If the Russian people 
who two years ago thought it impossible to disobey or even to 
criticise the existing power, now not only criticise, but are even 
preparing to disobey it and to replace it by a new one, why should 
we not suppose that in the consciousness of the Russian people 



THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 4^ 

another change in their relation towards power — more natural to 
them — is now preparing, a change which will consist in their moral 
and religious emancipation from power ? 

Why may not such a change be possible among any people, 
and why not at present among the Russians ? Why, instead of 
that irritated, egotistical mood of mutual strife, fear and hatred, 
which has now seized all nations, instead of all this preaching of 
lies, immorality, and violence now so strenuously circulated 
among all nations by newspapers, books, speeches, and actions — 
why should not a religious, humane, reasonable, loving mood seize 
the minds of all nations, and of the Russian nation in particular, 
after all the sins, sufferings and terrors they have lived through: a 
state of mind which would make them see all the horror of 
submitting to the power under which they live, and feel the joyful 
possibility of a reasonable, loving life without violence and without 
power ? 

Why should not the consciousness of the possibility and 
necessity of emancipating themselves from the sin of power, and of 
establishing unity among men based on mutual agreement and 
on respect and love between man and man, be now ripening, just 
as the movement now manifesting itself in the Revolution prepared 
by decades of influence tending in one particular direction ? 

Some ten or fifteen years ago the gifted French writer, Dumas 
fils, wrote a letter to Zola in which he, a talented and intelligent 
man chiefly occupied with aesthetic and social questions, when 
already old, uttered some strikingly prophetic words. Truly 
the spirit of God " bloweth where it listeth " ! This is what he 
wrote : — 

"The soul, too, is incessantly at work, ever evolving tov/ard light and 
truth. And so long as it has not reached full light and conquered the whole 
truth, it will continue to torment man. 

"Well ! The soul never so harassed man, never so dominated him, as is 
dees to-day. It is as though it were in the air we all breathe. The few isolated 
souls that had separately desired the regeneration of society have, little by 
little, sought one another out, beckoned one another, drawn nearer, united* 
comprehended one another, and formed a group, a centre of attraction, toward 



46 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

which others now fly from the four quarters of the globe, like larks toward a 
mirror. They have, as it were, formed one collective soul, so that men in 
future may realise together, consciously and irresistibly, the approaching union 
and steady progress of nations that were but recently hostile one to another. 
This new soul I find and recognise in events seemingly most calculated to deny it. 

"These armaments of all nations, these threats their representatives address 
to one another, this recrudescence of race persecutions, these hostilities among 
compatriots, are all things of evil aspect, but not of evil augury. They are the 
last convulsions of that which is about to disappear. The social body is like 
the human body. Disease, in this case, is but a violent effort of the organism 
to throw off a morbid and harmful element. 

" Those who have profited, and expect for long or or ever to continue to 
profit by the mistakes of the past, are uniting to prevent any modification of 
existing conditions. Hence these armaments and threats and persecutions ; 
but look carefully and you will see that all this is quite superficial. It is 
colossal, but hollow. There is no longer any soul in it — the soul has gone 
elsewhere ; these millions of armed men who are daily drilled to prepare for a 
general war of extermination, no longer hate the men they are expected to 
fight, and none of their leaders dares to proclaim this war. As for the appeals, 
and even the threatening claims, that rise from the suffering and the oppressed 
— a great and sincere pity, recognising their justice, begins at last to respond 
from above. 

" Agreement is inevitable, and will come at an appointed time, nearer than 
is expected. 

" I know not if it be because I shall soon leave this earth, and the rays that 
are already reaching me from below the horizon have disturbed my sight, but I 
believe our world is about to begin to realise the words, * Love one another' 
without, however, being concerned whether a man or a God uttered them. 

" The spiritual movement one recognises on all sides, and which so many 
naive and ambitious men expect to be able to direct, will be absolutely 
humanitarian. Mankind, which does nothing moderately, is about to be 
seized with a frenzy, a madness, of love. This will not, of course, happen 
smoothly or all at once ; it will involve misunderstandings— even sanguinary 
ones perchance — so trained and so accustomed have we been to hatred, even 
by those, sometimes, whose mission it was to teach us to love one another. But 
it is evident that this great law of brotherhood must be accomplished some day, 
and I am convinced that the time is commencing when our desire for its 
accomplishment will become irresistible." 

I believe that this thought, however strange the expression 
*' seized with a frenzy of love " may seem, is perfectly true, and is 
felt more or less dimly by all men of our day. A time must come 
when love, which forms the fundamental essence of the soul; will 



TliE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 47 

take the place natural to it in the life of mankind, and will become 
the chief basis of the relations between man and man. 
That time is coming ; it is at hand. 

** We are living in the times predicted by Christ, wrote Lamennais. 
" From one end of the earth to the other, everything is tottering. In all 
institutions, whatever they may be, in all the different systems on which the 
social life of men is founded, nothing stands firm. Everyone feels that soon 
it must all fall to ruins, and that in this temple too, not one stone will be left on 
another. But as the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, from whence the 
living God had departed, foreboded and prepared the erection of a new city, 
and a new temple, whitlier the people of all races and of all nations would 
come together at their own free will — so on the ruins of the temples and towns 
of to-day, a new city and a new temple will be erected, predestined to become 
the universal temple and the common fatherland of the human race, disunited 
till now by teachings hostile to one another, that make brothers into strangers 
and sow godless hatred and revolting warfare among them. When that hour, 
known to God alone, arrives — the hour of union of the nations into one temple 
and one city — then indeed will the Kingdom of Christ come — the complete 
fulfilment of his divine mission. Did he not come with the one object of 
teaching men that they must be united by the law of love ? " 
Channing said the same j 

" Mighty powers are at work in the world. Who can stay them ? God's 
word has gone forth, and ' it cannot return to him void. ' A new comprehension 
of the Christian spirit — a new reverence for humanity, a new feeling of 
brotherhood, and of all men's relation to the common Father — this is among 
the signs of our times. We see it ; do we not feel it ? Before this, all 
oppressions are to fall. Society, silently pervaded by this, is to change its 
aspect of universal warfare for peace. The power of selfishness, all-grasping 
and seemingly invincible, is to yield to this diviner energy. , , 'On earth 
peace,' will not always sound as fiction.'' 



XVI. 

Why should we suppose that people, who are entirely in the 
power of God, will always remain under the strange delusion that 
only human laws — changeable, accidental, unjust and local as they 
are —are important and binding, and not theone, eternal, just law of 
God, common to all men ? Why should we think that the teachers 
of mankind will always preach, as they now do, that there is and 
can be, no such law, but that the only laws that exist are special 



48 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

laws of religious ritual for every nation and every sect ; or the so-« 
called scientific laws of matter and the imaginary laws of sociology 
(which do not bind men to anything) or, finally, civil laws, which 
men themselves can institute and change? Such an error is 
possible for a time, but why should vve suppose that people to 
whom one and the same divine law written in their hearts has been 
revealed in the teaching of the BrahminSj Buddha, Lao-Tszc, 
Confucius and Christ, will not at last follow this one basis of all 
laws, affording as it does moral satisfaction and a joyful social life 
— but that they will always follow that wicked and pitiful tangle of 
Church, scientific, and Governmental teaching, which diverts their 
attention from the one thing needful, and directs it towards what 
can be of no use to them, as it does not show them how each 
separate man should live ? 

Why should we think that men will continue unceasingly and 

deliberately to torment themselves, some trying to rule over others, 

others with hatred and envy submitting to the rulers and seeking 

means themselves to become rulers ? Why should we think that 

the progress men pride themselves on will always lie in the increase 

of population and the preservation of life, and never in the moral 

elevation of life? Will lie in miserable mechanical inventions by 

which men will produce ever more and more harmful, injurious 

and demoralising objects, and not lie in greater and greater unity 

one with another, and in that subjugation of their lusts which i^ 

necessary to make such unity possible ? Why should we not 

suppose that men will rejoice and vie with one another, not in 

riches and luxuries, but in simplicity and frugality and in kindness 

one towards another ? Why should we not suppose that men will 

see progress, not in seizing more and more for themselves, but in 

taking less and less from others, and in giving more and more t-o 

others ; not in increasing their power, not in fighting more and 

more successfully, but in growing more and more humble, and in 

coming into closer and closer union, man with man and nation with 

nation ? 

Instead of imagining men unrestrainedly yielding to theij' 



THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 49 

lusts, breeding like rabbits, and establishing factories in towns 
for the production of chemical foods to feed their increasing 
generation, and living in these towns without plants or animals — 
why should we not imagine chaste people, struggling against 
their lusts, living in loving communion with their neighbours 
amid fruitful fields, gardens and woods, with tame, well-fed animal 
friends ; only with this difference from their present condition, 
that they do not consider the land to be anyone's private property, 
do not themselves belong to any particular nation, do not pay 
taxes or duties, prepare for war, or fight anybody ; but on the 
contrary, have more and more of peaceful intercourse with every 
race? 

To imagine the life of men like that, nothing need be invented 
or altered or added in one's imagination to the lives of the 
agricultural races we know in China, Russia, India, Canada, 
Algeria, Egypt and Australia. 

To picture such life to ourselves, one need not imagine any 
kind of cunning or out-of-the-way arrangement, but need only 
imagine to oneself men acknowleding no other supreme law but 
the universal law expressed alike in the Brahmin, Buddhist' 
Confucian, Taoist and Christian religions — -the lav/ of love to 
God and to one's neighbour. 

To imagine such a life we need not imagine men as some 
new kind of being — -virtuous angels. They will be just as they 
now are, with all weaknesses and passions natural to them ; they 
will sin, will perhaps quarrel, and commit adultery, and take 
away other people's property, and even slay ; but all this will be 
the exception and not, as now, the rule. Their life will be 
quite different owing to the one fact that they will not consider 
organised violence a good thing and a necessary condition of 
life, and will not be trained amiss by hearing the evil deeds of 
Governments represented as good actions. 

Their life will be quite different, because there will no longer 
be that impediment to preaching and teaching the spirit of 
goodness, love, and submission to the will of God, that exists as 



50 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

long as we admit as necessary and lawful, governmental violence 
demanding what is contrary to God's law, and involving the 
acceptance of what is criminal and bad, in place of what is lawful 
and good. 

Why should we not imagine that, through suffering, men may 
be aroused from the suggestion, the hypnotism, under which they 
have suffered so long, and remember that they are all sons 
and servants of God, and therefore can and must submit only to 
Him and to their own consciences ? All this is not difficult to 
imagine; it is even difficult to imagine that it should not be 
accomplished. 



XVIL 

" Except ye become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter 
the kingdom of heaven," does not refer to individuals only, but 
also to human societies. As a man, having experienced all the 
miseries caused by the passions and temptations of life, consciously 
returns to a state of simplicity, kindness towards all, and readiness 
to accept what is good (the state in which children unconsciously 
live) and returns to it with the wealth of experience and the 
reason of a grown-up man, so human society also, having 
experienced all the miserable consequences of abandoning the law 
of God to obey human power, and of attempting to arrange life 
apart from agricultural labour, must now consciously return, with 
all the wealth of experience gained during the time of its 
aberration, from the snares of human power, and from the attempt 
to organise life on a basis of Industrial activity, and must submit to 
the highest, Divine law, and to the primary work of cultivating 
the soil, which it had temporarily abandoned. 

Consciously to return from the snares of human power, and to 
obey the supreme law of God alone, is to admit as always and 
everywhere binding upon us, the eternal law of God, which is alike 
in all the teachings : Brahminist, Buddhist, Confucian, Taoian 



THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 51 

Christian, and to some extent in Mahommedan (Babiist) and is 
incompatible with subjection to human power. 

Consciously to live an agricultural life, is to acknowledge it to 
be not an accidental and temporary condition, but the life which 
makes it easiest for man to fulfil the will of God, and which should 
therefore be preferred to any other. 

For such a return to an agricultural life and to conscious dis- 
obedience to power, the Eastern nations (and among them the 
Russian nation) are most favourably situated. 

The Western nations have already wandered so far on the false 
path of changing the organization of power, and exchanging 
agricultural for industrial work, that such a return is difficult and 
requires great efforts. But, sooner or later, the ever-increasing 
annoyance and instability of their position will force them to return 
to a reasonable and truly free life, supported by their own labour 
and not by the exploitation of other nations. However alluring the 
external success of manufacturing industry and the showy side of 
such a life may be, the most penetrating thinkers among the 
Western nations have long pointed out how disastrous is the path 
they are following, and how necessary it is to reconsider and 
change their way, and to return to that agricultural life which was 
the original form of life for all nations, and which is the ordained 
path making it possible for all men to live a reasonable and joyful 
life. 

The majority of the Eastern peoples, including the Russian 
nation, will not have to alter their lives at ail. They need only 
stop their advance along the false path they have just entered, and 
become clearly conscious of the negative attitude towards power 
and the affectionate attitude towards husbandry which was always 
natural to them. 

We of the Eastern nations should be thankful to fate for 
placing us in a position in which we can benefit by the example of 
the Western nations : benefit by it, not in the sense of imitating it, 
but in the sense of avoiding their mistakes, not doing what they 



52 THE MEANING OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. 

have done, not travelling the disastrous path from which nations 
that have gone so far are already returning, or are preparing to 
return. 

Just in this halt in the march along a false path, and in 
showing the possibility and inevitableness of indicating and making 
a different path, one easier, more joyful, and more natural than 
the one the Western nations have travelled, lies the chief and 
mighty meaning of the Revolution now taking place in Russia. 



What's to be Done? 



About a month ago two young men came to see me. One had 
on a cap and peasant bark-shoes ; the other wore a black hat that 
had once been fashionable, and torn boots. 

I asked them who they were. With unconcealed pride they 
informed me that they were workmen, expelled from Moscow where 
they had taken part in the armed rising. Passing our village, they 
had found occupation as watchmen in a garden, but had lived there 
less than a month. The day before they came to me, the owner of 
the garden had dismissed them, charging them with persuading the 
peasants to attack the garden and lay it waste. They denied the 
charge with a smile, saying they had persuaded no one, they only 
went into the village of an evening and chatted with their fellows. 

They both, particularly the bolder, smiling one, who had 
sparkling black eyes and white teeth, had read revolutionary 
literature ; and they both used foreign words, in and out of place^ 
such as "orator,"* " proletariat," " Social-Democrat," " exploitation," 
etc. 

I asked them what they had read. The darker one replied 
with a smile, that he had read various pamphlets. 

I asked, "Which?" 

" All sorts : * Land and Liberty,' for instance." 

I then asked them what they thought of such pamphletSj 

''They tell the real truth," replied the dark one* 

" What is it that is so true in them ? " I asked. 

"Why, that it has become impossible to go on living so.'* 

"Why is it impossible .?" 

* An " orator " in Russia to-day is a man who goes en the stump for one of 
the political parties. {Trans.) 



54 WHAT'S TO BE DONE? 

" Why ? We have neither land nor work, and the Government 
throttles the people, without sense or reason," 

And, interrupting one another, they began to tell how the 
Cossacks flogged the people with their heavy whips ; how the police 
seized people haphazard, and shot people in their own houses, who 
had done nothing wrong. 

On my arguing that an armed rebellion was a bad and irrational 
affair, the dark one smiled and quietly replied : " We are of a 
different opinion." 

When I spoke of the sin of murder, and about the law of God, 
they exchanged glances, and the darker one shrugged his shoulders. 

" Does the law of God say they are to be allowed to exploit the 
proletariat?" replied he. "That used to be so, but now people 
understand better, and it can't go on . . . " 

I brought them out some booklets, chiefly on religious subjects. 
They glanced at the titles and were evidently not pleased. 

" Perhaps you don't care for them ; if so, don't take them." 

''No ! why not?" said the darker one, and, putting them into 
the breasts of their blouses, they took their leave. 

Though I have not been reading the papers, yet from the talk 
of my family, from letters I receive, and from accounts given by 
visitors, I knew what had been going on in Russia recently ; and 
just because I do not read the papers, I knew particularly well of 
the amazing change that has latterly taken place in the views held 
by our society and by the people, a change which amounts to this, 
that whereas formerly people considered the Government to be 
necessary, now all, except a very few, consider the activity of the 
Government to be criminal and wrong, and put the blame for all 
the disturbances on the Government alone. That is the opinion 
of professors, postal ofiicials, authors, shopkeepers, doctors and 
workmen alike. This feeling was strengthened by the dissolution 
of the first Duma, and has reached its highest point as a result of 
the cruel measures the Government has lately adopted. 

I knew this. But my talk with these two men had a great 
effect on me. Like the shock which suddenly turns freezing liquid 



WHAT'S TO BE DONE? 55 

into ice, it suddenly turned a whole series of similar impressions I 
had received before, into a definite and indubitable conviction. 

After my talk with them, I saw clearly that all the crimes the 
Government is now committing in order to crush the Revolution, 
not only fail to crush it, but inflame it the more ; and that if 
the Revolutionary movement appears for a time to die down 
under the cruelties of the Government, it will not be destroyed, but 
will merely be temporarily hidden, and will inevitably spring up 
again with new and increased strength. The fire is now in 
such a state that any contact with it can but increase its fierceness. 
It became clear to me that the only thing that could help would be, 
the cessation by the Government of all and every attempt to 
enforce its will ; the cessation not only of executions and arrests, 
but of all banishing, persecuting and proscribing. Only in that 
way can this horrible strife between brutalised people be brought 
to an end. 

It became perfectly clear to me that the only means of stopping 
the horrors that are being committed, and the perversion of the 
people, is the resignation by Government of its power. I was 
convinced that that was the best thing the Government can now 
do ; but I was equally firmly convinced that any such proposal, 
were I to make it, would be received merely as an indication that 
I was quite insane. And therefore, though it was perfectly clear 
to me that the continuance of governmental cruelty can only 
make things worse and not better, I did not attempt to write, or 
even to speak, about it. 

Nearly a month has passed, and unfortunately my supposition 
finds more and more confirmation. There are more and more 
executions, and more and more murders and robberies. I knew 
this both from conversation and from chance glances at the papers; 
and I knew that the mood of the people and of society had become 
more and more embittered against the Government. 

And a couple of days ago the following happened : 

When I was out riding, a young man in a pea-jacket and 
wearing a curious blue cap with a straight crown, who was driving 



56 WHAT'S TO BE DONE? 

in a peasant cart in the same direction as I, jumped off his cart 
and came up to me. 

He was a short man, with smaU, red moustaches, an unhealthy 
complexion, and a clever, harsh face with a dissatisfied 
expression. 

He asked me for booklets, and did this evidently as an excuse 
for entering into conversation. 

I asked him where he came from. 

He was a peasant from a distant village, from which the wives 
of some men who have been imprisoned lately, had been to see me. 

It is a village I know well, and in which it fell to my lot to 
administer the Charter of Liberation"^ ; and I always admired the 
particularly handsome and bold type of peasants who live there. 
From that village specially talented pupils used to come to my 
school. 

I asked him about the peasants who had been sent to prison. 
With the same assurance and absence of doubt that I had recently 
met with in everyone — the same full confidence that the 
Government alone is to blame — he told me that though they had 
done no wrong, they had been seized, beaten and imprisoned. 

Only with great difficulty could I get him to explain what they 
were accused of 

It turned out that they were " orators," and held meetings at 
which the necessity of expropriating the land was spoken of 

I said that the establishment of the equal right of all to the use 
of the land cannot be established by violence. 

He did not agree. 

" Why not ? " said he ; " we only need to organize." 

*' How will you organize ? " asked I. 

" That will be seen, when the time comes." 

" Do you mean, another armed rising ? " 

" It has become a painful necessity .*| 

* The only official position Tolstoy ever held, after he left the army, was 
that of *' Arbiter of the Peace " in 1861-2. In that capacity it fell to his lot to 
regulate the relations between the landlords and the newly-emancipated serfs 
m his district. {Trans.) 



WHAT'S TO BE DONE? 57 

I said (what I always say in such cases) that evil cannot be 
conquered by evil, but only by not doing evil. 

" But it has become impossible to live so. We have no work 
and no land. What's to become of us ? " said he, looking at me 
from under his brows. 

" I am old enough to be your grandfather," said I, " and I 
won't argue with you ; but I will say one thing to you as to a 
young man beginning life. If what the Government is doing is 
bad, what you are doing, or are preparing to do, is equally bad. 
You, as a young man forming your habits, should do one thing : 
you should live rightly, not sinning or resisting the will of God." 

He shook his head, dissatisfied, and said, 

" Every man has his own God. Millions of men — millions of 
Gods." 

" All the same," said I, " I advise you to cease taking part in 
the Revolution." 

"What's to be done?" replied he. "One can't go on enduring 
and enduring. What's to be done ? " 

I felt that no good would come of our talk and wished to 
ride away, but he stopped me. 

" Won't you help me to subscribe for a newspaper ? " said he. 

I refused and rode away from him, feeling sad. 

He was not one of those factory unemployed of whom 
thousands are now roaming Russia ; but he was a peasant 
agriculturist living in the village, and there are not hundreds nor 
thousands but millions of such peasants ; and the infection of 
such a mood as his is spreading more and more. 

On returning home, I found my family in the saddest frame of 
mind. They had just read the newspaper that had come (it was 
the 6th October, old style). 

" Twenty-two more executions to-day! It is horrible," said my 
daughter. 

" Not only horrible, but senseless," said I. 

" But whafs to be done f They cannot be allowed to rob and 
Jcill, and go unpunished," said one of those present. 



58 WHAT'S TO BE DONE? 

The words : Whafs to be done ? were the very words those two 
vagabonds from the garden, and to-day's peasant revolutionary, 
had used. 

"It is impossible to endure these insensate horrors committed 
by a corrupt Government which is ruining both the country and 
the people. We hate the means we have to employ, but Whafs 
to be done f " say the Revolutionists on the one side. 

"One cannot allow some self-selected pretenders to seize 
power and rule Russia as they like, perverting and ruining 
it. Of course the temporary measures now employed are 
lamentable, but Whafs to be donef" say the others, the 
Conservatives. 

And I thought of people near to me — Revolutionists and 
Conservatives, and of to-day's peasant, and of those unfortunate, 
Revolutionists who import and prepare bombs, and who murder 
and rob, and of the equally pitiable, lost men, who decree and 
organise the Courts-martial, take part in them and shoot and hang, 
assuring themselves (all of them alike) that they are doing what 
is necessary, and, all alike, repeating the same words : Whafs to be 
done ? 

Whafs to be done ? say both these and those, but they do not 
put it as a question : " What ought I to do ? " They put it 
forward as an assertion that it will be much worse for everyone 
if we cease to do what we are doing. 

And everyone is so accustomed to these words, which hide an 
explanation and a justification of the most horrible and immoral 
actions, that it enters no one's head to ask : " Who are you, who 
ask, Whafs to be done f Who are you, that you consider your- 
selves called on to decide other people's fate by actions 
which all men (even you yourselves) know to be odious and 
wicked "i How do you know that what you wish to alter, should 
be altered in the way that seems good to you } Do you not know 
that there are many men such as you, who consider bad and 
harmful what you consider good and useful ? And how do you 
know that what you are doing will produce the results you expect, 



WHAT'S TO BE DONE? 59 

especially as you cannot but be aware that (particularly in affairs 
relating to the life of a whole nation) the results attained are 
generally contrary to those aimed at ? And above all, what right 
have you to do what is contrary to the law of God (if you 
acknowledge a God), or to the most generally accepted laws of 
morality (if you acknowledge nothing but the generally accepted 
laws of morality) : by what right do you consider yourselves freed 
from those most simple, indubitable, human obligations, which are 
irreconcilable with your Revolutionary (or with your Govern- 
mental) acts ? " 

If your question j Whafs to be done ? is really a question, and 
not a justification ; and if you put it — as you should do — to 
yourselves, a quite clear and simple answer naturally suggests 
itself The answer is that you must do, not what the Tsar, 
Governor, police-officers, Duma, or some political party demands of 
you, but what is natural to you as a man, what is demanded of you 
by that Power which sent you into the world — the Power most 
people are accustomed to call God. 

And as soon as one gives this reply to the question, Wkafs to 
be done? that stupid, crime-begetting fog is at once dispelled, 
under whose influence, for some reason, men imagine that they 
alone, of all men — they (perhaps the most entangled and the most 
astray from the true path of life) are called on to decide the fate of 
millions, and for the questionable benefit of these millions to 
commit deeds which, not questionably but evidently, produce 
disasters to these millions. 

There exists a general law, acknowledged by all reasonable 
men, confirmed by tradition, by all the religions of all the nations, 
and by true science. This law is that men, to fulfil their destiny 
and attain their greatest welfare, should help one another, love one 
another, and in any case should not attack one another's liberty 
and life. Yet, strange to say, people appear who assure us that it 
is quite needless to obey this law, and that there are cases in which 
one may and should act contrary to it ; and that such deviations 
from the eternal law will bring more welfare, both to individuals 



6o WHAT'S TO BE DONE? 

and to societies, than the fulfilment of the reasonable, supreme law 
common to all humanity. 

The workmen in a vast, complex factory have received from the 
master clear instructions, accepted by them themselves, as to what 
they should and should not do, both that the works may go well, 
and for their own welfare. But people turn up who have no idea 
of what the works produce or of how it is produced, and they 
assure the workmen that they should cease to do what the master 
has ordered, and should do just the contrary, in order that the 
works may go properly and the workers obtain the greatest 
benefit. 

Is that not just what these people are doing — ^^unable as they 
are to grasp all the consequences flowing from the general activity 
of humanity ? They not only do not obey those eternal laws 
(common to all mankind and confirmed by the human intellect) 
framed for the success of that complex human activity, as well as 
for the benefit of its individual members, but they break them, 
directly and consciously, for the sake of some small, one-sided, 
casual aims set up by some of themselves (generally the most 
erring) under the impression (forgetting that others imagine quite 
the contrary) that they will thereby attain results more beneficial 
than those attained by fulfilling the eternal law common to all 
men and consonant with the nature of man. 

I know that to men suffering from that spiritual disease : 
political obsession, a plain and clear answer to the question, 
Whafs to be dojie ? an answer telling them to obey the highest law 
common to all mankind, the law of love to one's neighbour, will 
appear abstract and unpractical ; an answer which would seem to 
them practical, would be one telling them that men, who cannot 
know the consequences of their actions, and cannot know whether 
they will be alive an hour hence, but who do know very well that 
every murder and act of violence is bad, should nevertheless — 
under the fanciful pretext that they are establishing other people's 
future welfare — unceasingly act as if they knew quite surely what 
consequences their actions will produce, and as if they did not know 



WHATS TO BE DONE? 6i 

that to kill and torment people is bad, but only knew that such 
or such a monarchy or constitution is desirable. 

That will be the case with many who are suffering from the 
spiritual disease of political obsession, but I think the great majority 
of people suffering from all the horrors and crimes done by men who 
are so diseased, will at last understand the terrible deception under 
which those lie who acknowledge coercive power used by man 
to man as rightful and beneficent ; and having ^understood this, 
they will free themselves for ever from the madness and wickedness 
of either participating in force-using power, or submitting to it ; 
and will understand that each man should do one thing, namely -. 
should fulfil what is demanded of him by the reasonable and 
beneficent Source, which men call " God," of whose demands no 
man possessed of reason can fail to be conscious. 

I cannot but think that if all men, forgetting their various 
positions as ministers, policemen, presidents and members of 
various combative or non-combative parties, would only do the 
deeds natural to each of them as a human being — not only 
would those horrors and sufferings cease, of which the life of man 
(especially the life of Russian people) is now full, but the Kingdom 
of God would have come upon earth. 

If only some people acted so, the more of them there were, the 
less evil would there be, and the more good order and general 
welfare. 



An Appeal to Russians: 

TO THE GOVERNMENT, THE REVOLUTIONISTS, 
AND THE PEOPLE. 



I. 

TO THE GOVERNMENT. 

[By Government I mean those tvho, availing themselves of 
established authority^ can change the existing laws and put them in 
operation. In Russia, these people zvere and still are: the Tsar, his 
Ministers, and his nearest advisers.'] 

The acknowledged basis of all Governmental power is solely 
the promotion of the welfare of the people over whom the power 
IS exerted. 

But what are you who nov/ govern Russia, doing ? You are 
fighting the Revolutionists with shifts and cunning such as they 
employ against you ; and, worst of all, with cruelty even greater 
than theirs. But of two contending parties the conqueror always 
is not the more shifty, cunning, cruel, or harsh of the two, but the 
one that is nearest to the aim towards which humanity is 
advancing. 

Whether the Revolutionists rightly or wrongly define the aim 
towards which they strive, they certainly aim at some new 
arrangement of life ; while your only desire is to maintain 
yourselves in the profitable position in which you are established. 
Therefore, you Avill be unable to resist the Revolution, with your 
banner of Autocracy, even though it be with constitutional 
amendments, with perverted Christianity called Orthodoxy, a 
renovated Patriarchate, and all sorts of mystical interpretations. 



AN APPEAL TO RUSSIANS. 63 

All that Is moribund, and cannot be restored. Your salvation lies 
not in Dumas, elected in this way or in that ; still less in rifle-shots, 
cannons and executions ; but it lies in confessing your sin against 
the people, and trying to redeem it and efface it while you yet 
have time to do so. Set before the people ideals of equity, goodness 
and truth, more lofty and more just than those your opponents 
advocate. Place such an ideal before the people, not to save 
yourselves, but seriously and honestly setting yourselves to 
accomplish it, and you will not only save yourselves, but will save 
Russia from those ills which already afflict or are now threatening 
her. 

Nor need you invent this ideal ; it is the old, old ideal of all the 
Russian folk: the ideal of the restoration to the whole people — 
not to the peasants only, but to the whole people — of their natural 
and just right to the land. 

To men unaccustomed to think with their own minds, this idea 
seems unrealisable, because it is not a repetition of v/hat has been 
done in Europe and Am.erica. But just because this ideal has 
nowhere yet been accomplished, it is the true ideal of our day : 
and, more, it is the nearest ideal, and one which, before it is; 
accomplished in other countries, should now be accomplished in 
Russia. Wipe out 'your sins by a good deed ; while you still have 
the power, strive to destroy the ancient, crying, cruel injustice of 
private property in land, which is so vividly felt by the whole 
agricultural population, and from which they suffer so grievously ; 
and you will have the support of all the best people — the so-called 
'* intellectuals." You will have with you all true Constitutionalists; 
who cannot but . see that, before calling on the people to choose 
representatives, the people must be freed from the land-slavery in 
which it now lives. The Socialists, too, will have to admit that 
they are v/ith you, for the ideal which they set before themselves : 
the nationalisation of the implements of labour — is attainable first 
of all by the nationalisation of the chief implement of labour — - 
the land. The Revolutionists, too, will be on your side, for the 
revolution which you will be accomplishing by freeing the land 



64 AN APPEAL TO RUSSIANS. 

from private ownership, is one of the chief points in their 
programme. On your side, above all, will be the whole hundred- 
million agricultural peasantry, which alone represents the real 
Russian people. Only do what you, occupying the place of 
Government, are bound to do, and, while there is yet time, make it 
your business to establish the real welfare of the people ; and in 
place of the feeling of fear and anger which you now encounter, 
you will experience the joy of close union with the hundred-million 
Russian people ; you will know the love and gratitude of this 
kindly folk, who will not remember your sins, but will love you for 
the good you do them, as they now love him, or those, who freed 
them from slavery. 

Remember that you are not tsars, ministers, senators, and 
governors, but men ; and having done this, in place of grief, 
despair and terror, you will find the joy of forgiveness and of love. 
But that this may happen, you must not undertake this work 
superficially, as a means of safety, but sincerely, seriously, and with 
your soul's whole strength. Then you will see what eager, 
reasonable, and harmonious activity will be displayed in the best 
spheres of society, bringing the best men of all classes to the front, 
and depriving of all importance those who now disturb Russia. 
Do this, and all those terrible, brutal elements of revenge, anger, 
avarice, vanity, ambition, and above all of ignorance, will 
disappear, which now come to the front, infecting, agitating, and 
tormenting Russia — and of which you are guilty. 

Yes, only two courses are now open to you, men of the 
Government : a fratricidal slaughter, and all the horrors of a 
revolution leading to your inevitable and disgraceful destruction ; 
or the peaceful fulfilment of the ancient and just demands of the 
whole people, showing other Christian nations both that the 
injustice from which men have suffered so long and so cruelly can 
be abolished, and how to abolish it. 

Whether the form of social organisation under which you hold 
power has or has not outlived its day, so long as you still hold 
power, use it not to multiply the evil you have already done, and 



AN APPEAL TO RUSSIANS. 65 

the hatred you have already provoked ; but use it to accomplish a 
great and good deed not for your nation alone, but for all 
mankind. If this social organisation has outlived its day, let the 
last act done under it be one not of falsehood and cruelty, but of 
goodness and truth.* 

* Regarding the remark in the appeal to the Government referring to 
salvation *' not lying in Dumas elected in this way or that '' we will allow 
ourselves to make a slight reservation taking into consideration the fact that 
separate statements by Tolstoy are so often interpreted in a perverse sense. 
By these words he does not at all desire to advise the Government not to 
concede to the demands of public opinion. On the contrary, at the very time 
when this appeal was being prepared tor publication we received from Tolstoy 
a letter in which he expresses himself thus : 

". . . The general irritation cannot be overcome by force, but the 
Government, i.e., those people who constitute the Government, are bound before 
God, before men, and before themselves, to cease all acts of violence — to do all 
that which is demanded of them, to relieve themselves of their responsibility ; 
to grant legislative assembly and a ballot, universal, equal, direct, and secret, 
and an amnesty to all political offenders, and everything ..." 

Hence in the passage referred to in his appeal to the Government Tolstoy 
only wishes to convey that the gist of the matter lies not in the Duma but in a 
more radical alleviation of the position of the people. — Editor, 



TO THE REVOLUTIONISTS. 

[By Revoluticnists I mean those people — beginning with the most 
peaceful Constitutionalists and extending to the most militant Revolu- 
tionists — ivho zuish to replace the present Governmental authority by 
another authority ^ otherwise organised and consisting of other people^ 

You, Revolutionists of all shades and denominations, consider the 
present Government harmful^ and in various ways : by organising 
assemblies (allowed or prohibited by Government), by formulating 
projects, printing articles, making speeches, by unions, strikes and 



66 AN APPEAL TO RUSSIANS. 

demonstrations, and, finally (as a natural and inevitable basis and 
consequence of all these activities) by murders, executions and 
armed insurrections — you strive to replace the existing authority by 
another, a new one. 

Though you are all at variance among yourselves as to what 
this new authority should be, yet to bring about the arrangements 
proposed by each of your groups, you stop short at no crimes: 
murders, explosions, executions, or civil war. 

You have no words strong enough to express your condemnation 
and contempt for those official personages who struggle against 
you ; but it should not be forgotten that all the cruel acts committed 
by members of the Government in their struggle with you, are justi- 
fied in their eyes, because they, from the Tsar to the lowest 
policeman, having been educated in unlimited respect for the 
established order hallowed by age and tradition, when defending 
this order, feel fully convinced that they are doing what is demanded 
of them by millions of people, who acknowledge the rightfulness of 
the existing order and of their position in it. So that the moral 
responsibility for their cruel actions rests not on them alone, but is 
shared by many people. You, on the other hand : people of all 
sorts of professions — doctors, teachers, engineers, students, pro- 
essors, journalists, women-students, railway-men, labourers, lawyers, 
merchants, land-owners, occupied till now with special pursuits 
which have nothing to do with Government — you, who are not 
appealed to or recognised by anyone but yourselves, having suddenly 
become indubitably aware of the precise organisation needed by 
Russia, in the name of this organisation (which is to be realised in 
the future, and which each of you defines in his own way) take 
upon yourselves the whole responsibility for these very terrible 
acts you commit; and you throw bombs, destroy, murder and 
execute. 

Thousands have been killed ; all Russians have been reduced 
to despair, embittered and brutalised. And what is it all for? 
It is all because among a small group of people, hardly one ten* 
thousandth of the whole nation, some have decided that what is 



AN APPEAL TO RUSSIANS. 67 

needed for the very best organisation of the Russian Empire is 
the continuation of the Duma which lately sat ; while others say 
that what is needed is a Duma chosen by universal, secret, and 
equal voting ; a third party say that what is needed is a Republic : 
and yet a fourth party declare that what is needed is not an 
ordinary Republic, but a Socialist Republic. And for the sake of 
this, you provoke a civil war ! 

You say you do it for the people's sake, and that your chief 
aim is the welfare of the people. But the hundred-millions for 
whom you do it, do not ask it of you, and do not want all these 
things which you, by such evil means, try to obtain. The mass of 
the people do not need you at all, but always has regarded and 
still regards you, and cannot but regard you, as useless grubs who, 
in one way or another, consume the fruits of its labour and are a 
burden upon it. Only realise to yourselves clearly the life of this 
hundred-million Russian agricultural peasantry, who strictly 
speaking alone constitute the body of the Russian nation ; and 
understand that you all — professors and factory hands, doctor* 
engineers, journalists, students, land-owners, women-students 
veterinary surgeons, merchants, lawyers and railway-men : the very 
people so concerned about its welfare — are all harmful parasites 
on that body, sucking its sap, rotting upon it, and communicating 
to it your own corruption. 

Only imagine vividly to yourselves these millions, ever patiently 
labouring, and supporting your unnatural and artificial lives on their 
shoulders ; imagine them possessed of all these reforms you are 
hoping to obtain, and you will see how foreign to this people is all 
that professedly for their advantage, you are aiming at. They 
have other tasks, and see more profoundly that you do the aim 
that is before them ; and they express this consciousness of their 
destiny, not in newspaper articles, but by the whole life of a 
hundred-million people. 

But no, you cannot understand this. You are firmly convinced 
that this coarse folk has no roots of its own, and that it will be a 
great blessing for it, if you enlighten it with the latest article you 



6S AN APPEAL TO RUSSIANS. 

have read, and by so doing make it as pitiful, helpless, and 
perverted as yourselves. 

You say you want a just organisation of life, but in fact you 
can exist only under an irregular, unjust organisation. Should 
a really just organisation be established, with no place for those 
who live on the labour of others, you all : landlords, merchants, 
doctors, professors, and lawyers, as well as factory-hands, 
manufacturers, workshop-owners, engineers, teachers and producers 
of cannons, tobacco, spirits, looking-glasses, velvet, etc., together 
with the members of the Government — would starve to death. 

Whdit fou need is not a really just order of life: for nothing 
would be more dangerous for you than an order in which everyone 
had to do work useful to all. 

Only cease to deceive yourselves : consider well the place you 
hold among the Russian people and what you are doing, and it will 
be clear to you that your struggle with the Government is the struggle 
of two parasites on a healthy body, and that both contending 
parties are equally harmful to the people. Speak, therefore, of 
your own interests ; but do not speak for the people. Do not lie 
about them, but leave them in peace. Fight the Government, if 
you cannot refrain ; but know that you are fighting for yourselves 
not for the people, and that in this violent struggle there is not only 
nothing noble or good, but that your struggle is a very stupid and 
harmful and, above all, a very immoral affair. 

Your activity aims, you say, at making the general condition 
of the people better. But that the people's condition should be 
better, it is necessary for people themselves to be better. This is 
as much a truism, as that to heat a vessel of water, all the drops 
in it must be heated. That people may become better, it is 
necessary that they should turn their attention ever more and more 
to their inner life. But external public activity, and especially 
public strife, always diverts men's minds from the inner life ; and, 
therefore, by perverting people, always and inevitably lowers the level 
of general morality, as has everywhere been the case, and as we 
now see most strikingly exemplified in Russia. This lowering of 



AN APPEAL TO RUSSIANS. 69 

the level of general morality causes the most immoral part of 
society to come more and more to the top ; and an immoral public 
opinion is formed which not only permits, but even approves 
crimes, robberies, debauchery, and murder itself. Thus a vicious 
circle is set up : the evil elements of society, evoked by the social 
struggle, throw themselves hotly into public activity corresponding 
to the low level of their morality, and this activity again attracts 
to itself yet worse elements of society. Morality is lowered more 
and more, and the most immoral of men : the Dantons, Marats> 
Napoleons, Talleyrands, Bismarcks, become the heroes of the day. 
So that participation in public activity and strife, is not only not an 
elevated, useful and good thing (as it is customarily supposed and 
said to be by those who are engaged in this struggle) but on the 
contrary it is a most unquestionably stupid, harmful and immoral 
affair. 

Reflect on this, especially you, young people, who are not yet 
immersed in the sticky mud of political activity. Shake off from 
ourself the terrible hypnotism you are under ; free yourselves 
from the lie of this pseudo-service of the people, in the name of 
which you consider that everything is permitted you ; above all, think 
of the highest qualities of your soul, demanding of you neither 
equal and secret voting, nor armed insurrections, nor legislative 
assemblies, nor any similar stupidities and cruelties, but solely that 
you should live good and true lives. 

What is necessary for your good and sincere life is, first of all, 
not to deceive yourselves by supposing that by yielding to your 
petty passions : vanity, ambition, envy and bravado, or desiring to 
find an outlet for your spare energy, or to improve your own 
position, you can serve the people. No ; what is necessary is to 
examine yourselves, and to endeavour to correct your own failings 
and become better men. If you wish to think of public life, think 
first of your sins against the people ; try to consume as little of their 
labour as possible, and if you cannot help the peasantry, try at least 
not to mislead and confuse them, committing the terrible crime 
many of you now commit by deceiving and provoking them, 



70 AN APPEAL TO RUSSIANS. 

inciting them to robberies and insurrections, which always end in 
suffering and the yet greater enslavement for the people. 

The intricate and difficult circumstances amid which we live in 
Russia demand of you, especially at the present time, not 
newspaper articles, nor speeches in assemblies, nor promenadings 
in the streets with revolvers, nor the (often dishonest) incitement 
of the peasants while you evade responsibility yourselves ; but a 
frank and strict relation to yourselves and to your own lives, which 
alone are in your power, and the improvement of which is the sole 
means by which you can improve the general condition of the 
people. 

III. 

TO THE PEOPLE. 

[Bj/ tJie people I 7nean the ivhole Rtissian people^ hit especially 
the working, agricultural people^ wJio by their labour support the lives 
of all the rest.] 

You, Russian working people, chiefly agricultural peasants, 
now find yourselves in Russia in a specially difficult position. 
However hard it was for you to live vath little land and large taxes 
and customs-duties and wars, which the Government devised, you 
lived, till quite recently, believing in the Tsar, and believing that 
it was impossible to live without a Tsar and without his authority ; 
and you humbly submitted to the Government. 

Howev^er badly the Tsar's Government ruled you, you humbly 
submitted to it as long as there was only one Government. But 
now, when it has come about that a part of the people has rebelled, 
and ceasing to obey the Tsar's Government, has begun to fight 
against it : when in many places instead of one Government there 
are two, each of them demanding obedience, you can no longer 
humbly submit to the powers that be, without considering whether 
the. Government rules you well or ill ; but have to choose 
which of the two you will submit to. What are you to do ? Not 
those tens of thousands of workmen who bustle and are hustled 



AN APPEAL TO RUSSIANS. 71 

about in the towns, but you, the great, real, hundred- miUion 
agricultural people ? 

The old Government of the Tsar says to you : " Do not listen 
to the rebels ; they promise much, and will deceive you. Remain 
true to me, and I will satisfy all your wants." 

The rebels say : " Do not believe the Tsar's Government, which 
has always tormented you, and will continue to do so. Join us 
help us — and we will arrange for you a Government like that of 
the freest countries. Then you will choose your own rulers, and 
will govern yourselves, and right all your wrongs." 

What are you to do ? 

Support the old Government ? But, as you know, the old 
Government has long promised to lighten your burdens, but 
instead of lightening them, it has only increased your greatest 
evils : lack of land, taxes and conscription. 

Join the rebels ? They promise to arrange for you an elected 
Government such as exists in the freest countries. But 
wherever such elected Governments exist, in the countries that 
have most freedom, in the French and American Republics for 
instance, just as among ourselves, the chief ills of the people are 
not remedied : as among us, or to an even greater degree, the land 
is in the hands of the rich ; just as among us the people are laden 
with taxes and customs-duties without being asked, and as among 
us, armies are maintained and wars declared when those in power 
desire it, without the people being consulted. Moreover, our new 
Government is not yet established, and we do not know what it 
will be like. 

Not only is it not to your advantage to join either Government, 
but you cannot do it conscientiously before God. To defend the 
old Government means to do what was done recently in Odessa 
Sevastopol, Kief, Riga, the Caucasus, and Moscow, i.e. to capture, 
kill, hang, burn alive, execute, and shoot in the streets, killing 
children and women. But to join the Revolutionists means to do 
the same : to kill people, throw bombs, burn, rob, fight with 
soldiers, execute and hang. 



^2 AN APPEAL TO RUSSIANS. 

Therefore, labouring Christian people : now that the Tsar's 
Government calls on you to fight against your brothers, and the 
Revolutionists call on you to do the same, you evidently, not for 
your own benefit alone, but before God and your consciences, must 
and should jom neither the old nor the new Governme^it, and take 
no part in the imchristian doings either of the one or the other. 

And not to take part in the doings of the old Government 
means not to serve as soldiers, guards, constables, town or country 
police ; not to serve in any Government institutions and offices, 
County-Councils (Z^mstvos), Assemblies, or Dumas. Not to take 
part in the doings of Revolutionists means : not to form meetings 
or unions, or take part in strikes ; not to burn or wreck other 
people's houses, and not to join any armed rebellion. 

Two Governments hostile to one another now rule you, and 
they both summon you to take part in cruel, unchristian deeds. 
What can you do but reject all Government ? 

People say that it is difficult and even impossible to live without 
a Government, but you Russian workmen — especially agriculturists 
— know that when you live a peaceful, laborious countrj'- life in the 
villages, cultivating the land on terms of equality, and deciding 
your public affairs in the Commune (Mir), you have no need at all 
of a Government. 

The Government needs you, but you — Russian agriculturists — 
do not need a Government. And, therefore, in the present 
difficult circumstances, when it is equally bad to join either 
Government, it is reasonable and beneficial for you, agricultural 
Russians, not to obey any Government. 

But if this is so for the agricultural folk, what should the 
factory-hands and found ry-w^orkers do, of whom there are more 
in many lands than there are agriculturists, and whose lives are 
quite in the power of the Government } 

They should do the same as the village workers : not obey any 
Government, and with all their strength try to return to agricultural 
life. 

Only let the town workmen, as well as the villagers cease to 



AN APPEAL TO RUSSIANS. 73 

obey or serve Government, and, with the abolition of its power, the 
slavish conditions in which you live will vanish of themselves, for 
they are maintained only by governmental violence. And the 
violence the Government employs is supplied by yourselves. It is 
that power alone which places customs-duties on goods imported or 
exported ; it alone collects taxes on articles made in the country . 
it (the power of the Government) makes the laws which maintain 
the monopolies owned by private people, and the right of private 
property in land ; only that power, controlling the army which you 
yourselves supply, holds you in continual subjection or submission 
to itself, and to its abettors — the rich. 

When you, town-workers as well as villagers, cease to obey the 
Government, it will no longer be necessary for you (town-workmen) 
to accept whatever conditions the owners of the mills and factories 
dictate to you, but you yourselves will give them your conditions, 
or will start your own co-operative (artdl) manufacture of things 
needed by the people ; or, having free land, you will resume a 
natural agricultural life. 

" But if we Russian folk begin at once to live like that, not 
obeying the Government — there will be no Russia," say those to 
whom it seems that the existence of Russia — that is to say, the 
union of many different nations under one Government — is 
something important, great, and useful. 

In reality, this combination of many different nations, called 
Russia, is not only not important for you, Russian working men, 
but just this combination is a chief cause of your miseries. 

If they oppress you with taxes and duties, as they oppressed 
your forefathers, accumulationg vast debts which you have to pay ; 
if they take you as soldiers and send you to different ends of the 
earth to fight people with whom you have nothing to do, and who 
have nothing to do with you, all this is only done to maintain 
Russia, I.e. to maintain a forcible combination of Poland, the 
Cauca^us, Finland, Central Asia, Manchuria, and other lands and 
peoples, under one rule. But besides the fact that all your ills 
come from this union called Russia, this union involves a great sin 



74 AN APPEAL TO RUSSIANS. 

in which you involuntarily participate when you obey Government 
That there should be a Russia such as the existing one, the Polos? 
Finns, Letts, Georgians, Tartars, Armenians, and others, have to be 
held in subjection. And to hold them in subjection, it is necessary 
to forbid them to live as they wish to, and if they disobey this 
order, they have to be punished and killed. Why should you take 
part in these evil deeds when you yourselves suffer from them. 
Let those who have need of such a Russia, dominating Poland, 
Georgia, Finland, and other lands — let them arrange it if they can. 
But for you, working people, this is not at all necessary. What 
you need is something quite else. You only need enough land, 
and that no one should forcibly take your property, or oblige your 
sons to go as soldiers, and above all that no one should compel you 
to do evil deeds. And these evils will cease, if only you refuse to 
obey the demands of the Government — demands which ruin and 
destroy both your bodies and your souls. 

" But how, without a Government, and when all live in separate 
Communes, are all large public affairs to be arranged ? How will 
the ways of communication, railways, telegraphs, steamers, the post, 
the higher educational establishments, the libraries, and trade be 
managed without a Government?" 

People are so accustomed to see the Government control all 
public affairs, that it seems to them that the work itself is done by 
Government, and that without Government it is impossible to 
organise High Schools, ways of communication, post-offices, 
libraries, or commercial relations. But this is not true. The 
largest public affairs, not only national but international, are 
arranged by private individuals without Governmental assistance. 
In this way all kinds of international, postal, learned, commercial 
and industrial alliances are arranged. Governments not only do 
not aid these voluntarily organised unions, but when they take part 
in them they always hinder them. 

" But if you do not obey the Government, and do not pay taxes 
or supply soldiers, foreign nations will come and conquer you," add 
those who wish to rule over you. Do not believe it. Only live 



AN APPEAL TO RUSSIANS. 



75 



acknowledging the land to be common property; not going as 
soldiers, and not paying taxes (except such as you voluntarily give 
for public works) and peacefully settling your disagreements 
through your village Communes — and other nations, seeing your 
good life, will not come and conquer you ; or, if they come, on 
getting to know your good life they will adopt it and, instead of 
fighting you, will unite with you. For all the nations, like you your- 
selves, have suffered and now suffer from Governments ; from the 
strife fin war, trade, and industry) of different Governments against 
one another, and from the strife of classes, and of different parties. 
Among all Christian nations an inner labour is going on, the chief 
aim of which is emancipation from Governments ; but this eman- 
cipation is particularly difficult for nations in which the majority 
have abandoned agricultural life, and live an industrial town life 
employing the labour of other races. Among such nations 
emancipation is being prepared by socialism. But for you 
Russian labourers, living mainly an agricultural life, and supplying 
your own needs, this emancipation is particularly easy. Govern- 
ment for you has long ceased to be a necessity or even a 
convenience, and has become a great and uncompensated burden 
and misfortune. 

The Government, only the Government, by its power deprives 
you of land. Only the Government collects from you in taxes and 
customs-dues a great part of what you obtain by your labour. It 
alone, deprives you of the labour of your sons, taking them for 
soldiers and sending them to be killed. 

But Government is not some essential condition of human life, 
which will exist as long as mankind lasts, like the cultivation of the 
soil, marriage, the family, or human intercourse — Government 
is a human institution, and like all human institutions, is set up 
when it is needed and abolished when it becomes unnecessary. 

Of old, human sacrifices, the worship of idols, divinations 
tortures, slavery, and many other things, were instituted. But they 
were all abolished when people were so far enlightened that these 
institutions became superfluous burdens and evils. So also with 



76 AN APPEAL TO RUSSIANS. 

Governments. Governments were instituted when the nations 
were savage, cruel and coarse. The Governments set up were 
equally cruel and coarse. Nearly all the Governments took their 
laws from the heathen Romans ; and to the present day the 
Governments remain as coarse as they were in the days 
before Christianity, with their forcible requisitions, soldiers' 
prisons and executions- But the people, becoming enlightened, 
have less and less need of such Governments, and in our day most 
of the Christian nations have arrived at the stage when Govern- 
ment merely hinders them. 

The shell is necessary for the egg until the bird is hatched. 
But when the bird is ready, the shell is but a hindrance. So it is 
with Governments ; most Christian nations feel this, and particu- 
larly Russian agricultural people now feel this acutely. 

" Government is necessary, we cannot live without a Govern- 
ment," men say, and they are especially convinced of this now, 
when there are disturbances among the people. But who are 
these men, so concerned for the preservation of the Government ? 
They are the very men who live on the labour of the people, and, 
conscious of their sin, fear its expos^ure, and hope that the 
Government (being bound to them by unity of interest) will 
protect their wrong-doing by force. For these men, the Govern- 
ment is very necessary, but not for you — the peasantry. For you 
the Government has always been simply a burden ; and now, 
that it has by its evil rule provoked riots, and brought it to pass that 
there are two rival Governments, it has become an evident 
misfortune and a great sin, which you must repudiate for your 
bodily and spiritual welfare. 

Whether you, labouring Russian people, free yourselves at 
once from obedience to any Government, or whether you will yet 
have to suffer and endure at the hands of members of the old or of 
the new Government (or possibly at the hands of foreign 
Governments) you Russian labouring men have now no other 
course but to cease to obey the Government, and to begin to live 
without it. 



AN APPEAL TO RUSSIANS. 77 

You, country labourers as well as town workers, may at first 
have to suffer at the hands of the old as well as of the ne\^ 
Governments for your disobedience, and also from disagreements 
arising among yourselves ; but all the ills that may come from 
these causes are as nothing compared to the ills and sufferings you 
now endure and will yet have to endure from the Government, if 
(obeying one or other Government) you are drawn into partici- 
pation in the murders, executions, and civil strife that are now 
being committed, and that will yet long continue to be committed 
by the contending Governments, unless you stop them by refusing 
to participate in them. 

Only yield to what is demanded of you by this or that 
Government : only, for the support of the old Government, enter 
on a struggle with the Revolutionaries ; serving in the army, or 
police, or joining the " Black-gang " mobs ; or, for the support 
of the Revolutionists, take part in strikes, the destruction of 
property, armed risings, or any unions, elections, or Dumas — and 
besides burdening your souls with many sins, and encountering 
much suffering, you will not have time to look round before one 
Government or other (even though you may have promoted its 
triumph) will fasten the deadly noose of slavery in which you have 
lived, and are still living, once more upon you. 

Only do not submit to, and do not obey, either the one or the 
other, and you will rid yourselves of your miseries, and will be 
free. 

From the present difficult circumstances you, Russian working 
people, have but one way of escape ; and that is by refusing to 
obey any force-using authority — humbly and meekly enduring 
violence, and refusing to participate in it 

This way of escape is simple and easy, and undoubtedly leads 
to welfare. But to act in this way you must submit to the govern- 
ment of God and to His law. " He that endureth to the end will 
be saved," and your salvation is in your own hands. 



LETTER TO A CHINESE GENTLEMAN. 



I. 

Dear Sir,— 

I received your books and have read them with great interest, 
especially the " Papers from a Viceroy's Yamen." 

The life of the Chinese people has always interested me in the 
highest degree, and I have endeavoured to become acquainted with 
what was accessible in the life of the Chinese, especially with the 
Chinese wisdom, the books of Confucius, Mentze, Laotze, and 
commentaries upon them. I have also read about Chinese 
Buddhism and books by Europeans upon China. Latterly, 
moreover since those atrocities which have been perpetrated upon 
the Chinese by Europeans — amongst the others and to a great 
extent by Russians — the general disposition of the Chinese people 
has interested and does yet interest me. 

The Chinese people, whilst suffering so much from the immoral 
and coarsely egotistic avarice and cruelty of the European nations, 
has, until lately, answered all the violence committed against it 
with a magnanimous and wise tranquillity preferring to suffer rather 
than to fight against this violence. I am speaking of the Chinese 
people, but not about the Government. This tranquillity and 
patience of the great and powerful Chinese people elicited only an 
increasingly insolent aggression from Europeans, as is always the 
case with coarsely selfish people liviiig merely an animal life as 
were the Europeans who had dealings with China. The trial 
which the Chinese have undergone and are now undergoing is a 
great and hea\y one, but precisely now is it important that the 
Chinese people should not lose patience, or alter their attitude 
towards violence, so as not to deprive themselves of all the vast 



LETTER TO A CHINESE GENTLEMAN. 79 

results which must follow the enduring of violence without 
returning evil for evil. 

Only " he that endureth to the end the same shall be saved '* 
is said in the Christian law, and I think that it is an indubitable 
truth, although one which men find it hard to accept. Abstinence 
from returning evil for evil and non-participation in evil is the 
surest means not only of salvation but of victory over those who 
commit evil. 

The Chinese could see a striking confirmation of the truth of 
this law afte(^ their surrender of Port Arthur to Russia. The 
greatest efforts to defend Port Arthur by arms against the Japanese 
and the Russians would not have produced such ruinous 
consequences for Russia and Japan as those material and moral 
evils which the surrender of Port Arthur to the former brought 
on Russia and Japan. The same will inevitably be the case with 
Wei-hai-Wei and Kiao-chau, surrendered by China to England and 
Germany. 

The success of some robbers elicits the envy of others, and 
the prey seized becomes an object of dissension ruining the 
robbers themselves. Such is the case with dogs, so also is it 
with men who have descended to the level of animals. 



IL 

Therefore it is that I now with fear and grief hear and see in your 
book the manifestation in China of the spirit of strife, of the desire 
to forcibly resist the atrocities committed by the European nations. 
Were this to be the case, were the Chinese people indeed to lose 
patience and, arming themselves according ta the methods of 
Europeans, to expel from their midst all the European robbers — 
which task they could easily accomplish with their intelligence, 
persistence, and energy, and above all by reason of their great 
numbers — it would be dreadful. Dreadful not in the sense in 
which this was understood by one of the coarsest and most 



8o LETTER TO A CHINESE GENTLEMAN. 

benighted representatives of Western Europe — the German 
Emperor — not in the sense that China would become dangerous to 
Europe^ but in the sense that China would cease to be the main- 
stay of your true practical national wisdom consisting in living 
that peaceful agricultural life which is natural to all rational men, 
and to which those nations who have abandoned this life are bound 
sooner or later consciously to return. 



in. 

I think that in our time a great revulsion is taking place in the 
life of humanity, and that in this revulsion China, at the head of the 
Eastern nations, must play a grand part. 

Methinks the vocation of the Eastern nations, China, Persia, 
Turkey, India, Russia and perhaps Japan, if she is not yet 
completely enmeshed in the net of depraved European civilisation, — 
consists in indicating to all nations that true way towards freedom 
to which, as you say in your book, there is in the Chinese language 
no other word than Tao, — the Way, — i.e., an activity in conformity 
with the eternal and fundamental law of human life. 

Freedom according to the teaching of Jesus is realised in this 
same way. " And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall 
make you free " is said in that teaching. And it is this freedom, 
which Western nations have almost irrevocably lost, that the 
Eastern nations are methinks called to realise. 

My idea is this : 

From the most ancient times it has been the case that out of 
the midst of peaceful and laborious people there arose savage men 
who preferred violence to labour, and these savage and idle men 
attacked and compelled the peaceful ones to work for them. So it 
has been both in the West and in the East amongst all nations who 
lived the state life, and so it continued for ages and continues yet. 
But in olden times when conquerors seized vast populated spaces 
they could not do much harm to the subdued : the small number oi 
rulers and great number of ruled, especially when the ways of 



LETTER TO A CHINESE GENTLEMAN. 8i 

communication were very primitive, merely produced the result of 
bringing a small portion of the population into subjection to the 
violence of the rulers, whereas the majority could live a peaceful life 
without coming into direct touch with the oppressors. Thus it was 
in the whole world, and so until quite latterly did it continue 
amongst the Eastern nations as well, and especially in the vast land 
of China. 

But such a situation could not and cannot continue, for two 
reasons : firstly, because coercive power through its very essence 
keeps continually becoming more depraved, and secondly, because 
the subjugated people, becoming more and more enlightened, see 
with increasing clearness the evil of their submission to power 
The effect of this is further increased by technical improvements in. 
the means of communication : roads, the post, telegraph, 
telephones, owing to which the rulers manifest their influence in 
places where it could not otherwise have reached ; and the 
oppressed also interassociating ever more closely, understand 
clearer and clearer the disadvantages of their position. 

And the disadvantages in course of time become so heavy that 
the subdued feel impelled to alter in some way or another their 
relation to authority. 

The Western nations have long felt this necessity and have long 
since changed their attitude to power by the one means, common 
to all Western peoples — by the limitation of power through 
representatives, that is as a matter of fact by the spreading of 
power, by its transference from one or a few to the many. 

At the present time I think that the term has arrived for the 
Eastern nations also and for Chfna similarly to realise all the evil 
of despotic power and to search for the means of liberation from it 
the present conditions of life having become unbearable. 



IV. 

I know that in China there exists a teaching implying that the 
chief ruler, the " Bogdikhan," should be the wisest and most 

G 



82 LETTER TO A CHINESE GENTLEMAN. 

virtuous man, and that if he be not such, then the subjects may 
and should cease to obey him. But I think that such a teaching is 
merely a justification of power, and as unsound as the teaching of 
Paul circulated amongst the European nations, which affirms that 
the powers are of God. The Chinese people cannot know whether 
their Emperor is wise and virtuous, just as the Christian nations 
could not know whether our power was granted by God to this 
ruler and not to that other one who fought against him. 

These justifications of power could stand when the evil of 
^jower was not much felt by the people ; but now that the majority 
of men feel all the disadvantages and injustice of power, of the 
power of one, or a few, over many, these justifications are not 
effective, and nations have to alter one way or another their 
attitude to authority. And the Western nations have long ago 
made this alteration : it is now the turn of the East. It is I think 
in such a position that Russia and Persia, Turkey and China 
now find themselves. All these nations have attained the period 
when they can no longer remain in their former attitude towards 
their rulers. As was correctly remarked by the Russian writer 
Gertzen : a Gengis Khan with telegraphs and electric motors is 
impossible. If Gengis Khans or men similar to them still exist in 
the East, it is clear that their hour has come and that they are the 
last. They cannot continue to exist both because owing to 
telegraphs and all that is called civilisation their power is 
becoming too oppressive, and because the nations, owing to the same 
civilisation, feel and recognise with especial keenness that the 
existence or non-existence of these Gengis Khans is for them not 
a matter of indifference as it used to be of old, but that almost all 
the calamities from which they suffer are produced precisely by 
this power to' which they submit without any advantage to them- 
selves but merely by habit. 

In Russia this is certainly the case ; I think that the same is 
true also of Turkey and Persia and China. 

For China this is especially true, owing to the peaceful dis- 
position of its population and the bad organisation of its Army 



LETTER TO A CHINESE GENTLEMAN. S^ 

which gives the Europeans the possibility of robbing with impunity 
Chinese lands under the pretext of collisions and differences with 
the Chinese Government. 

The Chinese people cannot but feel the necessity of changing 
its relation to power. 



V. 

And now I gather from your book and other information that 
some light-minded Chinese, called the party of reform, think that 
this alteration should consist in following the methods of the 
Western nations, t'.e.y in substituting a representative Government 
for a despotic one, in organising an army similar to that of 
Western nations, and a similar organisation of industry. 

This solution, which at first sight appears the simplest and 
most natural, is not only a superficial one, but very silly, and, 
according to all I know about China, it is altogether alien to the 
wise Chinese people. To organise such a Constitution, such an 
Army, perhaps, also, such a conscription, and such an industry as 
the Western nations have got, would mean to renounce all that by 
which the Chinese people have lived and are living, to renounce 
their past, to renounce their rational, peaceful, agricultural life, that 
life which constitutes the true and only way of Tao, not only for 
China, but for all mankind. 

Let us admit that, having introduced amongst themselves 
European institutions, the Chinese were to expel the Europeans 
and to have a Constitution, a powerful standing Army, and an 
industrial development similar to the European. 

Japan has done this, has introduced a Constitution and extended 
the Army and Fleet, and developed industry, and the result of all 
these inseparably interconnected measures is already obvious 
The condition of its people more and more approaches the 
position of the European nations, and this position is extremely 
urdensome. 



84 LETTER TO A CHINESE GENTLEMAN. 

VL 

The States of Western Europe, externally very powerful, may 
now crush the Chinese army ; but the position of the people living 
in these States not only cannot be compared with the position of 
the Chinese, but, on the contrary, it is most calamitous. Amongst 
all these nations there unceasingly proceeds a strife between the 
destitute, exasperated working people and the Government and 
wealthy, a strife which is restrained only by coercion on the part of 
deceived men who constitute the Army ; a similar strife is 
continually waging between the different States demanding 
endlessly increasing armaments, a strife which is any moment 
ready to plunge into the greatest catastrophes. But however 
dreadful this state of things may be, it does not constitute the 
essence of the calamity of the Western nations. Their chief and 
fundamental calamity is that the whole life of these nations who 
are unable to furnish themselves with food, is entirely based on the 
necessity of procuring means of sustenance by violence and cunning 
from other nations, who, like China, India, Russia and others, still 
preserve a rational agricultural life. 

And it is these parasitical nations and their activity that you 
are invited to imitate by the men of the Reform party ! 

Constitutions, protective tariffs, standing armies, all this to- 
gether has rendered the Western nations what they are — people 
who have abandoned agriculture and become unused to it, occupied 
in towns and factories in the production of articles for the most 
part unnecessary, people who with their armies are adapted only to 
every kind of violence and robbery. However brilliant their 
position may appear at first sight, it is a desperate one, and they 
must inevitably perish if they do not change the whole, structure of 
their life, founded as it now is on deceit and the plunder and 
pillage of the agricultural nations. 

To imitate Western nations, being frightened by their insolence 
and power, would be the same as if a rational undepraved 
industrious man were to imitate a spendthrift insolent ruffian who 
has lost the habit of work and was assaulting him, i,e, in order to 



LETTER TO A CHINESE GENTLEMAN. 85 

successfully oppose an immoral blackguard to become a similar 
immoral blackguard oneself. 

The Chinese should not imitate Western nations, but profit by 
their example in order to avoid falling into the same desperate 
straits. 

All that the Western nations are doing can and should be an 
example for the Eastern ones, — not, however, an example of what 
they should do, but of what they should not do under any 
consideration whatever. 



VIL 

To follow the way of the Western nations means to go the way 
to certain ruin. But also to remain in the position in which the 
Russians in Russia, the Persians in Persia, the Turks in Turkey, 
and the Chinese in China are is also impossible. But for you, the 
Chinese, it is particularly obviously impossible, because you 
remaining with your love of peace in the position of a State without 
an army amidst armed States, which are unable to exist 
independently, will inevitably be subject to plunder and seizure 
which these States are compelled to have recourse to for their 
maintenance. 

What, then, is to be done ? 

For us Russians I know, I most undoubtedly know, what we 
Russians should not do and what we should do in order to free 
ourselves from the evils from which we are suffering, and, not to 
fall into still worse ones. We Russians first of all should not obey 
the existing authorities, but we also should not do that which is 
being attempted amongst us by unenlightened people, as amongst 
you, by the party of reform, — we should not imitate the West : we 
should not substitute one Power for another and organise a 
constitution, whether it be monarchial or republican. This for 
certain we should not do, because it would necessarily bring us to 
the same calamitous position in which the Western nations are 
placed. But we should and can do only one thing, and that the 



S6 LETTER TO A CHINESE GENTLEMAN. 

most simple : live a peaceful agricultural life, bearing the acts of 
violence which may be perpetrated upon us without struggling 
against them and without participating in them. The same thing^ 
I presume, and with yet stronger reasons, should you Chinese do in 
order not only to free yourselves from the seizures of your land and 
the plunder which the European nations subject you to, but also 
from the unreasonable demands of your Government which exacts 
from you actions contrary to your moral teaching and 
consciousness. 

Only adhere to that liberty which consists in following the 
rational way of life, z.e.y Tao, and of themselves will be abolished 
all the calamities which your officials cause you, and your 
oppression and plunder by Europeans will become impossibk. 
You will free yourselves from your officials by not fulfilling their 
demands, and, above all, by not obeying, you will cease to con- 
tribute to the oppression and plunder of each other. You will free 
yourselves from plunder on the part of Europeans by keeping the 
Tao, and not recognising yourselves as belonging to any State, or as 
being responsible for the deeds committed by your Government. 

All the seizures and plunder you are subject to from European 
nations take place only because there exists a Government of 
which you recognise yourselves as subjects. If there were no 
Chinese Government, foreign nations would have no pretext, 
under guise of international relations, to commit their atrocities. 
And if, by refusing to obey your Government, you will cease to 
encourage foreign Powers in their acts of violence against you : if 
you do not serve the Government, either in private, or State, or 
military service— then there will not exist all those calamities 
from which you suffer. 

VIIL 

In order to free oneself from the evil one should not fight with 
its consequences : the abuses of Governments, the seizures and 
plunders of neighbouring nations, — but with the root of the evil ; 



LETTER TO A CHINESE GENTLEMAN. 87 

with the relations in which the people have placed themselves 
towards human authority. If the people recognise human power 
as higher than the power of God, higher than the law (Tao), then 
the people will always be slaves and the more so the more complex 
their organisation of Power (such as a constitutional one) which 
they institute and to which they submit. Only those people can 
be free for whom the law of God (Tao) is the sole supreme law to 
which all others should be subordinated. 

IX. 

Individuals and societies are always in a transitory state from 
one age to another, but there arc times when these transitions both 
for individuals and for societies are especially apparent and vividly 
realised. As it happens with a man who has suddenly come to 
feel that he can no longer continue a childish life, so also in the life 
of nations there come periods when societies can no longer 
continue to live as they did, and they realise the necessity of 
changing their habits, their organisation and activity. And it is 
such a period of transition from childhood to manhood that, as it 
appears to me, all nations are now passing through, the Eastern as 
well as the Western. This transition consists in the necessity of 
freeing themselves from human authority which has become 
unbearable, and of the establishment of life on foundations other 
than human power. 

And this task is, I think, by historical fate predestined precisely 
to the Eastern nations. 

The Eastern nations are placed for this purpose in especially 
happy conditions, not having yet abandoned agriculture, not being 
yet depraved by military, constitutional and industrial life, and not 
having yet lost faith in the necessity of the supreme law of Heaven 
or God, they are standing at the parting of the ways from which the 
European nations have long ago turned, on to the false way in which 
liberation from human authority has become particularly difficult.* 

* As to why this is so I have stated in detail in my article entitled, " The 
Significance of the Russian Revolution." 



88 LETTER TO A CHINESE GENTLEMAN. 

And therefore, Eastern nations seeing all the calamity of the West- 
ern peoples, should naturally endeavour to free themselves from the 
error of human authority, not by that artificial and delusive method 
consisting in the imaginary limitation of power, and in representa- 
tion by which Western nations have endeavoured to free themselves, 
but should solve the problem of Power by another more radical and 
simple plan. And this plan of itself appeals to those who have not 
yet lost faith in the supreme, binding law of Heaven or God, the law 
of Tao. It consists merely in the following of this law which 
excludes the possibility of obeying human authority. 

If the Chinese people were only to continue to live, as they 
have formerly lived, a peaceful industrious agricultural lite, 
following in their conduct the principles of their three religions : 
Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, all three in their basis coinciding : 
Confucianism in the liberation from all human authority, Taoism in 
not doing to others what one does not wish done to oneself, and 
Buddhism in love towards all men and all living beings, then 
of themselves would disappear all those calamities from which 
they now suffer, and no Powers could overcome them. 

The task which, according to my opinion, is now pending not 
only for China but for all the Eastern nations, does not merely 
consist in freeing themselves from the evils they suffer from their 
own Governments and foreign nations, but in pointing out to all 
nations the issue out of the transitory position in which they all 
are. 

And there is and can be no other issue than the liberation of 
oneself fron human authority, and submission to the divine 
authority. 



LOVE AND MALCOMSON, PRINTERS, 4 & 5, DEAN ST., HIGH HOLBORN, W.C. 



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WAR 

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with readings on the subject by 

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Edited by V. Tchertkoff, 

A collection of realistic and allegorical pictures 
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